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Ohio Union Officials Protest Prison Labor

Ohio state prisoners performed 2.9 million hours of unpaid "community service" labor in 1997 at schools, fairgrounds, churches and other locations. But when the St. Clairsville, Ohio, Board of Education recruited unpaid prison labor in the construction of an outdoor classroom, representatives of the Upper Ohio Valley Building and Construction Trades Council stormed into a Board of Education meeting to vent their displeasure.

"The prisoners are coming out of their cells and taking our work," said council Vice President Orphy Klempa. "They are coming out and taking jobs away from tax-paying citizens of this county. We take offense -- strongly when we have the skilled people. We would appreciate the opportunity to build these projects."

School Board president Michael DeRosa countered that prison labor is only used on projects when funding is otherwise not available. "We don't want to rely on [prison labor]," he said. "We would love to build all new facilities, and that would put a lot of people to work for a long time."

Klempa said he doesn't believe funding, or lack thereof, should dictate the use of prison labor. "If the prison wasn't there," he pointed out, "you would still find a way to get the job done."

The Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV)

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