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Widespread Prisoner Labor Abuse Requires Reform

Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett and police Chief Jay Campbell were caught abusing the state's
prisoner work program. Arkansas Department of Corrections requested, in early August 2005,
that the program be suspended after learning that state prisoners had been used to repair the
police chief's boat and make improvements to his home.

In a statement issued on August 8, 2005 prison spokesperson Dina Tyler clarified that Act 309 of
1983, which covers DOC policy including the prisoner labor program, prohibits the use of
prisoners for private benefit. That Campbell paid the workers to build a walkway from his
swimming pool to his house as well as fix his boat did not negate the infraction. Prisoner labor is
to only consist of work that benefits the community.

Matters were made worse by the fact that Mayor Privett loaned a vacant building he owned to the
sheriff for the boat repairs.

Lonoke was receiving $15 per day per prisoner on loan from the DOC. The five male prisoners
would perform duties around the jail like cooking and emptying garbage as well as community
service. All five were returned to the prison and Lonoke was suspended from the program
pending a decision from the states 309 monitoring committee.

Matters were further complicated by an allegation that one or more prisoners, housed at Lonoke,
may have had improper sexual contact with a member of the public.

On August 8, 2005 the DOC requested an investigation, by the Arkansas State Police, of
suspected sexual misconduct between a prisoner and a private citizen. Tyler said that concern
was fueled by the number of times and the abundance of sources affirming the allegations.

We just kept running into it, she said.

These continuing problems prompted the monitoring committee to continue Lonoke's
suspension when they met again on November 9, 2005. Both Campbell and Privett admitted their
guilt before the committee.

We went in there with our hat in our hand, said Privett. I did say, and so did the chief that
ignorance [of wrongdoing] was no excuse.

Tyler said the suspension would likely continue until the sexual misconduct investigation was

Beginning January 1, 2006 Alabama prisoners ceased to work as furniture movers in Madison
Countys work-release program. Previously, prisoners would accompany the sheriff to do the
heavy lifting when tenants were officially evicted. The service was free to landlords.
Records show that prisoners provided 779 move-outs in 2004.

We are probably one of the last few sheriffs' departments in Alabama that still performs this
service, said Chief Deputy Chris Stevens.

Concerns over injury to prisoners and liability considerations prompted the county to discontinue
the service. Veteran Lt. Rufus Fox says the service has been offered during his entire twenty-year
tenure. Fox mentioned that one concern was the possibility a prisoner might steal, smuggle or
swallow medication found on the job.

Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating possible illegal use of prison work crews by a Grove
City businessman. Larry Booth applied for and was approved the use of prisoners via Correctional
Reception Center (CRC) to work on his private business. The prison crew was used to paint,
vacuum and wash windows at the Clubhouse, a teen club owned by Booth.

Booth said he got the idea from a friend who is a guard at CRC. The crews official function is to
provide free assistance to schools, charities and churches. Booths application, which listed his
sisters softball league as a phone reference, was likely misleading.

Its a huge misunderstanding...Im in a mess, said Booth. I did not do anything intentionally
wrong. He offered to reimburse the prison for the labor performed.

But Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction says,
We are very concerned that there may be several infractions.

So far, no guards have been charged in the matter.

Vehicles driven by residents of Bolivar County will be a little dirtier now that the Mississippi
Department of Corrections (MDOC) and Mississippi State Audit Department has prohibited the
use of state prisoners to wash cars.

Senate Bill 2747 took effect on July 5, 2005 prohibiting prisoners from doing any work for private
citizens or county employees. The measure resulted from state-wide concerns of prisoner labor
abuse. Prior to the decision MDOC prisoners were used, and sometimes required, to wash cars at
the prison and the local courthouses.

Prisoners are supposed to benefit from laboring in Vo-Tech programs designed to rehabilitate
and teach marketable work skills. The program is designed to dovetail with county needs as
prisoner ply their plumbing, carpentry and electrical skills to maintain jail and prison facilities. In
this case the devil was literally in the details as car washing had become more of an abuse than a

Until the MDOC and the Mississippi State Audit Department changes their position on this issue,
we're not going to allow it, said Bolivar County Sheriff H.M. Mack Grimmett.

County Administrator Adrian Brown has encouraged county employees to refrain from any
practice that will endanger the good standing of the Bolivar County Sheriff's Department or the
correctional facility.

All too many public officials seem to view the free or underpaid labor of the prisoners in their
care as a job perk.

Sources: Associated Press, Columbus Dispatch, Huntsville Times, Lonoke Democrat.

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