Prison inmate labor programs, long considered a lower-cost option for needed public work projects like clearing debris and cutting weeds on highways, are increasingly facing elimination or reduction because of budget issues, reports USA Today. Michigan and North Carolina are the latest to eliminate their programs, and Florida cut its program nearly 40 percent this year.
Michigan legislators eliminated 15 crews this year, even as more requests for inmate labor poured in from communities. It cost Michigan taxpayers $10 million last year to operate the crews. Most of that cost was for transportation and supervision of the inmates. Crews will be reinstated Oct. 1 but places that use them must pay. Florida cut $24 million from the corrections 2010-11 budget, which resulted in the elimination of 71 of 184 public work squads. North Carolina cut funding for all 127 corrections crews in 2009, added back 39 crews last year, only to cut them again in a new round of budget cuts. The closures are cause for concern in some municipalities that use prison labor.