For 97 cents a day, inmate John Kemp picks up garbage in Indiana. The Louisville Courier-Journal says Kemp does not sleep behind bars, is not confined by a fence, and will not face the barrel of a guard’s gun or a stint in solitary. He lives in a bricked state prison that looks more like a big-box store, except in a nice neighborhood. The facility overlooks a lake in a state forest. As prisoner Greg Falconberry put it, “It’s as close to the real world as you can get, and still be incarcerated.”
Those whose crimes were nonviolent may come to the facility for relatively short stays before they are released. Austin Mayor Doug Campbell hears occasional grumbles about convicts being brought to town. The mayor wouldn’t do so, he says, if he felt it was dangerous. “These are not hardened criminals,” Campbell said, asking residents to appreciate the hands provided freely, especially in these times of tight budgets. “It’s like having six employees who don’t cost us anything.” Offenders pitched in on the restoration of an old mill and have hammered and sawed on a Habitat for Humanity project. They also chopped up damage left by Hurricane Ike’s vicious winds in September.