Fourteen North Carolina prisons have Community Work Crews that dispatch inmates to dig ditches, paint playgrounds, and perform other tasks that require strong backs and ample time. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the 2012 state budget approved by the state House this month eliminates the $1.6 million line item that goes to pay for the crews, including the salaries of the 39 correctional officers who supervise them.
The House trimmed about $81.5 million and 550 jobs from a state Department of Correction budget already slashed in recent years, despite a ballooning prison population. Rep. Leo Daughtry, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Justice and Public Safety, said the idea of cutting the work crews originated with prison system administrators. Keith Acree, a prison system spokesman, said the 10 percent budget reduction legislators demanded forced administrators to target popular and useful programs. “This is not a preferred cut,” Acree said. “We had to put a lot of things on the table we didn’t like to try to protect our core mission.”