Inmate labor saves county thousands

Inmate labor is saving Brown County taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars per year.
Sheriff Gordon Ellis and Jail Administrator Lieutenant Larry Meyer recently discussed the program with The Brown County Press.
“We recently did that with a cleanup along the Ohio River.  We had a couple of inmates and a deputy assist in that cleanup process,” Ellis said.
“And once a week, we have inmates that work with the Brown County Solid Waste Management District to help clean up areas of the county.”
Ellis said a lot of thought goes in to choosing which inmates are able to join a work detail outside the jail walls.
“The profile is an inmate that has not been problematic in the jail, that’s in jail for a misdemeanor offense and an inmate that has shown a work ethic that is helpful to us,” Ellis said.
“The other thing you look at is how well they have behaved while incarcerated.  If they have disobeyed the rules, they are generally not eligible for a work detail. Once we make those determinations, we evaluate what work we have available and what inmates are suitable for that work.”
Ellis said that the inmates are rewarded with time off of their sentence for a job well done.
“Generally, the receive 1 day of good time for every ten work activities.  If it’s a more strenuous detail, for example moving furniture, they may get a one for one rate.  It depends on the actual labor they are performing,” the sheriff said.
He added that the program would not be possible without the support of local judges.  The judges must approve any time that is taken off of the sentences they have imposed.
“We have been very fortunate that Common Pleas Judge (Scott) Gusweiler and Municipal Judge (Joe) Worley have been supportive of this program, so they support the idea of awarding good time for inmates that are working for the good of the county,” Ellis said.
Ellis said that inmates have been working at the jail complex for some time.
“We use inmate labor exclusively for lawn maintenance in and around the jail and they also take care of some functions within the jail as well,” he said.
“Inmates that come out are accompanied by a deputy, so they are never unsupervised.”
Meyer said that the idea of being able to work is popular among the inmates.
“When we do block checks, we have inmates ask us all the time if there is any work they can do at the jail.  They want to get out of their cells and do work.  They don’t like laying around back there,” Meyer said.
“I think if you are sitting in a cell for a long period of time, you are going to get bored.  So you are going to tear something up or do something else negative.  If we keep them active, they will think less about doing that kind of stuff.”
Meyer added that there are also inmates with regular duties.
“We also have two trustees that do kitchen duty.  They don’t cook, but they help set up the trays and then clean up.  They sweep and mop, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, fold the clothes.”
Meyer and Ellis said that without inmate labor, the county would likely have to hire at least four employees to perform the same tasks.
Ellis said that he would like to see the program expand, but the ability to do that will depend on how many eligible inmates are available to work at the jail at any given time.