Three weeks after an inmate escaped from a state-run New Jersey dairy farm, the state will end its practice of using prison labor at the facility, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The decision comes after local officials expressed concerns about prisoners working so close to schools and residential areas. The farm is one of six run by AgriIndustries, a self-sustaining branch of the Department of Corrections that sells dairy and processed food products back to the department and other state agencies at cost-saving prices. The farm has been staffed by prisoners from the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility who are bused in daily. The work is considered a perk for minimum-security prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences.
The escape of Marc Harris, 22, was the first in a decade. He was serving a three-year sentence on a drug charge and was eligible for parole in May. He was found two days later at a motel with his wife. The farm work program has saved the state $1 million a year in food costs and offering a chance for prisoners to develop a work ethic before their release, AgriIndustries’ Frank Papa said. Since the escape, Skillman Farm has been run by its civilian staff; inmates are not expected back. “It only takes one guy to screw it up,” he said.