Low-cost cleaning crews

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Reflecting the public's resistance to soft treatment for inmates, journalist Warren Hinckle described a sentence at the federal minimum security camp in California as "doing ping-pong time at Lompoc."

In Missouri, some minimum-security inmates even get to leave the prison and spend the day outside, but they will be sweating, and their work saves the state millions of dollars annually in highway cleanup costs.

About 340 state prison inmates are working along Missouri roads on a given day. These are prisoners who have a history of good conduct and are nearing release from prison. Their crimes were not violent.

Work crews from the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Mo., have been picking up refuse along Interstate 55 and near Westfield Shoppingtown West Park. The inmates do other kinds of work as well, including cleaning Missouri Department of Transportation trucks and mowing around MoDOT sheds. They are not allowed to drive vehicles.

MoDOT estimates the prison labor has saved the state about $13 million so far in 2004.

Making use of prisoner help isn't limited to the state. Inmates at the Cape Girardeau County Jail help clean up the county parks and Courthouse Park.

Obviously, some inmates value the opportunity to work outside the prison. The work they do makes reparations for their crimes and benefits us all.

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