The state has found a much cheaper way to keep highways maintained and cleaned – inmates.
The labor is not free, but it will save the state $2 million per year, according to Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
While state Department of Transportation employees make $16 per hour to keep your ride as bump-free as possible, inmates collect $1.75 per hour.
DOT will not be left entirely out of the equation. The crews will be made up of minimum-security inmates, but inmates nonetheless, so DOT staff will be there to supervise.
Rell is touting this as an opportunity not only for the state’s purse strings but also for the inmates' later vocational opportunities, and to be better members of society.
“The 102 inmates who make up these work crews are gaining knowledge that will help them in the transition back to law-abiding society and are no longer sitting idly behind prison walls," Rell said.
These folks are wards of the state, so the state is shelling out a big chunk of change to pay for things like food, heat, water, electricity, medical attention and a host of other services the state has to provide for its wards.
"And the inmates are making a positive contribution to the state, which is incurring a sizable cost to feed, clothe and house them while they serve their sentence," Rell said.
The 28 inmate crews work out of DOT garages and come from six correctional facilities.
While the inmate road crew is new, inmates do perform other services in the state, including maintaining prisons and assisting municipalities and non-profit groups.
Over the years, there have been many debates about use of prison labor and whether it is good because it gives prisoners something positive to do or negative because it takes jobs from other people.
Yet, several states employ some form of prison labor, including Tennessee, Mississippi and Virginia, where inmates do some work on state highways. In Rhode Island, inmate crews do community service and work for government and non-profit agencies. Rhode Island even issued a press release for people requesting an inmate crew for community service projects.