For Florida jail imate Danny Nuñez, every 30 days he works at an animal shelter gets him five days shaved off his sentence. “I’d rather be here than sitting in jail,” Nunez, 30, told the Orlado Sentinel. “It helps me think more positively and makes time go by faster.” Inmate labor made it possible to reopen the animal shelter after it lost 12 of its 31 employees in layoffs. Inmate labor has been used locally for years, primarily for roadway cleaning. The financial strain of a slow economy and the crash of the housing market is making more governments reconsider the potential of help from the jailhouse.
Orlando is considering using inmates for landscaping projects. Seminole County Manager Cindy Coto has increasingly looked to inmate labor to fill budget holes. She estimates it has helped the county save about $70,000. Inmates who meet security requirements act as moving crews, trim grass along sidewalks and curbs and do other odd jobs. In the Public Works Department, particularly, the free labor has helped make up for about 70 eliminated positions. “This is a good way to offset the loss without the cost,” Public Works Director Gary Johnson said.