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Colorado Sought to Revoke Prisoner’s Electrician License After His Release

For nearly two decades, Colorado state prisoner Marke E. Bogle worked as a licensed electrician for the Colorado Department of Corrections. In 1987, with the prison system’s approval, he tested and obtained his journeyman’s license. The next year he was licensed as a master electrician, and prison officials paid for his license renewal every two years.

Bogle spent the better part of 18 years working 12-to-15 hour days, and even trained other prisoners. He performed every conceivable electric-related job while he was locked up.
He installed surveillance systems and repaired electrical fences. Wardens kept him on call at all hours and he traveled across the state repairing prisons’ electrical problems for 60 cents a day – the going wage for prison labor.

On one occasion Bogle even saved his prison supervisor’s life. “I was 72 feet up [a lamppost]” recalled Richard Nailor, Bogle’s former supervisor. When Bogle realized the pole was about to snap, “he held it real carefully as I eased down.”

Bogle only declined one job during his entire sentence: He refused to wire the Territorial Prison’s room used for lethal injections.

In 2006, after almost two decades behind bars, Bogle was released on parole. He soon began to ply his electrical trade to support himself.

State Attorney General John Suthers then filed disciplinary proceedings to have Bogle’s license revoked due to his felony conviction. The official position of Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Affairs was “to ensure the safety of the public” when reviewing the status of all licenses.

“I think it’s a bunch of crap,” Nailor said of the state’s efforts to revoke Bogle’s license. “He’s been in places where if he wanted to kill me, he could have done it 10 times. Instead, basically, this man saved my life.”

O.J. Fleming, CEO of Northern Electric, Inc. and Bogle’s boss, agreed. “He’s paid his debt to society and has every right to make a meaningful living,” he said.

Bogle lamented his dilemma. “All that money I saved the state, and then I start my new life and it’s like, ‘You’re no good to us anymore.’”

Following news reports about the state’s attempt to yank Bogle’s license – and thus his means of earning an honest living – the Department of Regulatory Affairs reached a more reasonable accommodation that let Bogle retain his license under a stipulated agreement.

It’s worth noting that when prisons exploit prisoners’ labor, they quickly become a disposable commodity. No doubt, had Bogle remained in prison providing low-cost electrical work, state officials would not have tried to revoke his license despite his obvious felony conviction. Upon his release on parole, however, he was no longer any use to the state and they took action against him accordingly.

Sources: Denver Post, www.doradls.state.co.us