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Alabama Work-Release Prisoners Working But Not Getting Paid

Prisoners in an Alabama work-release program have been working without getting paid. Problems have come mostly from prison employees who have hired prison workers then defaulted on their debt.

Prisons located in Decatur, Birmingham and Loxley posed the greatest problems. A 2004 audit noted several questionable practices. Based on an antiquated policy allowing prison employees and their relatives to use prison labor most work-release prisoners were being paid late or not being paid at all. Though the policy was discontinued in 2003, two employees still owed prisoners money at the time of the audit. One owed $1,500 and the other $700.

Another questionable practice included a $5.00 charge to transport prisoners to and from work. The state netted $2.6 million from the work-release ride service.

Work-release prisoners were often checked out of custody for days on end even though they werent being put to work. It wasnt mentioned exactly what they were doing.

The audit also addressed questionable implementation of medical fees. Work-release prisoners were charged $3 co-payments if they initiated a medical visit. If they failed a drug test they were fined $25.

Some prisoners in the Birmingham facility were required to pay for 100% of their medical care. Regulations provide that prisoners with $500 in their accounts have an option of using free-world medical and dental facilities at their own expense. However, the warden of Birmingham prison was forcing prisoners, with $300 or more on the books to pay for private medical care.

Then Alabama prison Commissioner Donal Campbell transferred the Birmingham warden after the audit. While he was not specific about the reason for the transfer, he did say it resulted from complaints about money.

The audit says, It appears that the Department of Corrections does not have specific legal authority to charge [certain] fees, that they were collecting.

Brian Corbett, spokesman for the prison said that problems raised by the audit had been flagged and addressed. But Corbett said that he was unsure what the audit meant by the word appears.

Source: Birmingham Post Herald

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