Cities Seek To Retain Prisons For Their Inmate Labor


Although many people fight to block prisons from coming to town, Charleston, Me., and other communities are fighting to keep their prisons from going away, the Wall Street Journal reports. Many states, including Maine, Ohio, Washington and New York, want to close or consolidate prisons to save money. Maine Gov. John Baldacci wants to mothball part of Charleston Correctional Facility and relocate nearly 40 percent of the inmates, which would cut work-release crews. The farming town of 1,500 wants its criminal element to stick around. Town leaders say they don’t know what they will do without the free or ultra-cheap labor the jailbirds provide.

Last year, Charleston inmates did 39,337 hours of community work, roughly the equivalent of 19 full-timers. Inmates maintain the five local cemeteries, set up election booths and hang Veteran’s Day flags. They built a log-cabin “snack shack” at a local park, and helped bust up beaver dams in a stream. In the small city of Medical Lake in eastern Washington, Mayor John Higgins pleaded with his state representative to keep the nearby Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women from shuttering. Inmates typically get little or no pay, but they can earn reduced sentences. They can learn a trade “rather than just sitting and rotting in a jail,” said Jim Zecca, director of solid waste for Madison County, N.Y. His county is home to a minimum-security state prison that Gov. David Paterson is looking at shuttering to help close a $15.4 billion budget gap.


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