Towns, Schools Lock In Big Savings With Inmate Labor

September 19, 2012

Inmate work crews from Century Correctional Institution are continuing to provide tens of thousands of dollars worth of labor to towns and schools in the North Escambia area.

“We could not operate without them,” Century Mayor Freddie McCall said. “We are real proud of our working relationship with the prison.”

For a small town like Century — and their small $3.1 million total budget — prisoner labor is critical.  Through August 31, inmates from CCI had performed 8,532 hours of labor for the Town of Century this year, a $147,091.68 value.

The value of the inmate labor is calculated at $17.24 per hour — a figure set by the state.

About 200 inmates a day –less than 15 percent of the total inmate population — work on multiple prison works crews from Century Correctional’s  Main Unit on Tedder Road and the Berrydale Forestry Camp near Jay. Dedicated crews are assigned to the Town of Century, the Town of Jay, Gulf Breeze and other entities.

Prisoners have completed 7,660 hours of labor in Jay so far this year, saving the town $132,058.40. In Gulf Breeze, prisoners have worked 13,574 hours valued at $234,015.76.

The prisoners also work in what might seem to be an unlikely location — several area schools. But they typically work on Saturdays and school holidays.

“They are never on campus on a school day when children are present,” Bratt Elementary School Principal Jeanene Hall said recently. “In fact, we close the gates when they are here to ensure there are no children that come onto the campus.”

At Bratt Elementary, prisoners completed the construction of bookshelves for the school. The materials were provided by the school while the handiwork was provided by free  inmate labor, cutting the total project cost by about 90 percent.

“They did an amazing job,” Hall said, “and saved the school district money in the process.”

Inmates have completed 1,034 hours of service around Bratt Elementary, Byrneville Elementary and Northview High worth $17,826.16 this year.

McCall also said he has been pleased with the quality of labor provided by the inmates, even on tough projects.

He said earlier this year that Century paid a contractor to replace a culvert on Elm Street as his town employees and inmates observed the process. Then, Century’s employees and inmate crews replaced similar culverts on Jeter  Lane and Henry Street to Department of Transportation specifications. McCall estimated the total savings to the town of Century at about $100,000 versus paying a contractor.

Pictured top and insets: Prisoners from Century Correctional Institution work earlier this year at  the Nadine McCaw Park in Century. Pictured below: Bookshelves constructed by inmate work crews at Bratt Elementary School. photos, click to enlarge.



20 Responses to “Towns, Schools Lock In Big Savings With Inmate Labor”

  1. cecily on December 11th, 2012 11:18 am

    These inmates do not earn money. in reality they still serve the required 85 % of their sentence, and volunteer for work squads, to get out of the dsorms and cells at their respective prisons. At least they are doing something productive isntead of sitting around, learning how to be worse criminals

  2. Everett on September 22nd, 2012 6:39 am

    We need to save all the money we can. These prisoners volunteer for this work. It gets them out off their cell or dorm. They learn a trade or skill and job experience. There are alot of productive folks in jail that made a bad judge call in their lives. Give them as much work as they want. Sometimes its a dignity issue and gives back as part of paying the debt back to society.

    Try offering these jobs to the 8.6 % unempleyed in the area. They will not take because they would actually have to quit selling drugs, shooting people and making babies to earn a living.

    Tell me I’m wrong on this one.

  3. Doug on September 20th, 2012 9:05 am

    I don’t think we should focus on the hourly rate the state sets for inmate labor. It is a statistical number that accounts for many factors (like fully paid medical/dental, meals, laundry, etc). Theses factors aren’t considered for county or state employees.

    Sometimes, the work the inmates do can help change their lives. While stationed at Eglin AFB in the late 80s, part of my job was overseeing an inmate work crew (one of many teams from the federal prison camp) . They performed any type of manual labor we needed in our compound which included eight bldgs and at least five large industrial work shops. We did a lot of electrical work, and some of the inmates became very proficient. Yes, we supervised them closely and only allowed them to do minor tasks, but they liked the work and learned from it. Several of the inmates went on to be productive citizens once they completed their sentences. I’ve kept in contact with two of them and consider them friends. In the end, I think it was a good situation for the inmates and the government.

  4. Bill l on September 20th, 2012 8:45 am

    Too bad the inmates can not be credited a dollar or two to pay off fines for each hr of work. Most of their work hard and hot and most do a fine job. Not many people are lining up to do this kind of labor. Nice job and hopefully you won’t be coming back when your time is completed.

  5. T on September 19th, 2012 10:21 pm

    I hear that walmart has donated flowers to the cities to schools and signs for their beautification projects that the inmates planted for our community. Ask youreslf, ‘what have i done for the community? How much money have i donated for flowers for signs or schools?’ walmart’s a team player so stop by your local city hall and donate so the inmates dont have to do it all. I heard the inmates are painting all the fire hydrates in north escambia over 300 and washing the fire trucks and cutting there grass so century finest can do what they do best save lives and look good doing it. I wont some inmates the thangs i could do.

  6. B on September 19th, 2012 10:12 pm

    Amen T

  7. T on September 19th, 2012 9:53 pm

    Hardworker….. County and city workers are getting payed to watch the inmate labor squads do the work that they don’t wont to do. Inmates get payed nothing for helping you get your pay check. The way i see it i much rather sit and watch them help me do my work than be the guy thats being watched 24/7, BILL the last time i checked there were hundreds of jobs available and not one inmate applied so what makes you think inmates can get the jobs citizens could’ve had? The state and county budges are cut so low now that we are having to do more with less so stop hating and start donating lawnmowers and weed eaters so we can keep our cities, parks, and schools looking good for your kids. Then we might let you join our team.

  8. fred on September 19th, 2012 2:17 pm

    @CRS – I agree, and maybe these inmates are working toward getting themselves straightened out. I know rehabilitation is remote these days, but if these guys learn a trade, get good experience and demonstrate good work skills, maybe someone will take a chance on them after they are released.

  9. Jack on September 19th, 2012 2:13 pm

    An employee’s salary is only a part of the total labor costs.

  10. CRS on September 19th, 2012 1:51 pm

    Great effort!!! There are so many great incentives to come out of this program. This will give the inmates a chance to develop job skills, prepare them to adjust back to soceity when released from prison and; it’s saving tax payer dollars. Hopefully, adjoing communities and/or states, will grab a hold of this Wonderful Idea.

  11. Fred's mom on September 19th, 2012 1:49 pm

    I sure wish the state would increase the pay for it’s employees. The county would not be able to take advantage of the “free labor” unless an officer was keeping guard over the inmates. It is going on seven years since we have received a cost of living raise or any step raises.

  12. bama54 on September 19th, 2012 12:59 pm

    These convict do this instead of be couped up at the prison. This is freedom for these guys, and is volunteer work. We may save money but what happens to the punishment for the crime? This is just another way (in their minds) of beating the system.

  13. patty on September 19th, 2012 11:52 am

    Hey! the state set the dollar amount, they can say anything, doesn’t mean that they pay their state employees that amount either. Sometimes words are cheap.

  14. Abe on September 19th, 2012 11:00 am

    Thanks William, That’s the way I understood it as well. (sigh)

  15. William on September 19th, 2012 8:59 am

    To clarify for some of the commenters…the inmates are not paid $17.24 per hour…they work as part of the their time.

    The towns and schools do not pay the prison system. It’s free to them.

    The $17.24 is just the number the state says the labor would be worth *if* it was paid.

  16. RENEE on September 19th, 2012 8:37 am

    MY HUSBAND ALSO WORKS FOR THE COUNTY, AND HAS FOR MANY YEARS. HE ALSO DONT MAKE NEAR 17.24 dollars an hour thats a shame, but i am glad to see the help around town.

  17. Bill on September 19th, 2012 8:33 am

    That’s right, keep hiring inmate labor instead of your local citizens. They don’t need the work?

  18. Abe on September 19th, 2012 7:07 am

    Wow.. so this war on drugs does have a bright side- cheap labor. Who says the government can’t compete with private industry. I’d hope the police remember this when they think about giving that pot smoker a break: there’s schools that need to be painted!

  19. T on September 19th, 2012 6:13 am

    Good job! I heard the boss Say theres moore to come in Century can’t wait to see.

  20. hardworker on September 19th, 2012 5:07 am

    You know its Purdy sad that I work for a county employer and I don’t make no where near that $17.24 dollar an hour figure something just don’t seem right there……….

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