Letters to the Editor

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PIERCE COUNTY: Use jail inmates for park services

Letter by Robert Freeby, Tacoma on Sep. 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm with 18 Comments »
September 26, 2011 3:18 pm

What do people do when they can’t afford to go out for dinner and other recreational activities that cost money? They look for activities that don’t cost money or not much money. If the county has eliminated services at 16 parks (TNT, 9-24), why doesn’t the county look at using jail inmates who are doing time on petty offense matters to resume those services?

I would bet that inmates would welcome the opportunity to give back to the community by way of community service in keeping our public parks open for those families that need a place to enjoy without costing them money the they need to keep the lights on or food on the table. I would even venture to bet that some of those inmates have families that depend on such inexpensive outlets for family fun.

Why not become a little more creative in saving our public lands for continued public use. We own them, right?

Leave a comment Comments → 18
  1. SandHills says:


    Freeby, you make it seem that inmates are more conscientious about community parks than law abiding citizens who could volunteer – it’s done at Mount Rainier, why not in local parks.

    I’m sure that having armed guards to oversee these inmates will really make a family feel better about using those parks – wow, do you have any commonsense at all??

  2. Ah yes……slavery to keep up recreational resources.

  3. old_benjamin says:

    Yes, Robert, didn’t you know. Picking up trash, along with waterboarding, is considered torture, as any teen-ager will attest.

  4. County inmates already do work in the parks. Every Thursday they show up at Chambers Bay and clean invasive plants. That effort does not come free. There are transportation costs and supervision costs.
    Mr. Freeby may be confused by the fact that his name portends something that does not really exist.

  5. People keep writing letters that show their ignorance. Whatever happened to thinking about preconceived notions with a little caution before recklessly expounding on them for everyone to see?

  6. Oh yes. The cost of supervising inmates on work parties? Did you vote to repeal the 2 cent bottle tax and not begin the tax on high income folks?
    Isn’t it amazing what hindsight can illustrate?

  7. First off beerboy it’s not slavery I’m sure you believe no one deserves to go to jail.
    The people that you see @ chambers bay are not prisoner they are people who were convicted of a petty crime or 1st offenders and were given community service. So if the run from the work crew the person(s) on community service are free to leave the person who overseeing them is only require to report them to the courts if they do. What they need is work release prisoners

  8. If I recall there was an uproar by labor unions when citizens sought to mow the grass and do light maintenance at a park in Midland. It seems they were taking jobs away from county employees. The same with unions complaining about local citizens taking care of school grounds.

  9. Then the tables will be turned when a couple of convicts escape and the Right Wing Sound Machine turns from complaining about unions to “no law and order….how dare they let them out of jail”

    There is nothing like 20/20 hindsight.

    I think we need more prison labor to reduce the amount of labor in the community that creates money to spend so that we have an economy.

    There’s the ticket!!!

  10. APimpNamedSlickback says:

    First of all, it wouldn’t be slave labor… inmates are paid for their labor, just at a rate far below minimum wage.

    I live in Phoenix and we have county chain-gangs working all the time cleaning up parks. The inmates volunteer for those crews because it’s a chance to get a change of scenery. The only cost is fuel to transport the inmates to the park. There is no extra cost to guard them because the guards who supervise them would be supervising them in the jail if they weren’t on the chain-gang. Escape isn’t a huge concern because 20 people chained together in black and white striped jumpsuits can’t get very far without being noticed in the greater Phoenix-metro area.

    State prisoners also have work crews, although they’re not on chain-gangs. The state crews all wear orange jumpsuits and they do gardening/janitorial work in and around the capitol grounds. The state prisoners work largely unsupervised. There are guards, but they are few and far between. Again, the prisoners volunteer for the work crews to get a change of scenery. Only the most trusted, non-violent offenders who are nearing the end of their sentence are permitted to be on outside work crews, and even then, they only work in an area that has a pretty high police saturation anyway.

    I ride my bike to work each day and have chatted with some of them while waiting for the light to change. They’re greatful to get out of the prison for a few hours and to do work that benefits someone other than the other prisoners.

    If the prisoners weren’t doing the capitol lawn care, the taxpayers would still be paying them the same rate to do some other menial task, and we’d have to pay a contractor much more to do the lawn care on top of that. So really, it’s win-win for everyone.

  11. ItalianSpring says:

    beerbie – It’s not slavery, it’s putting them into government service, and I guarantee you their working conditions would be better than those given to Obomba’s troops currently serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libiya, and whatever others he chooses to start as a no bell peace prize winner (?).

  12. puyallupmutt says:

    Dont forget a couple of years ago when a local union griped when parents volunteered to clean up school grounds.

    You can smell public employees unions filing suit against prisoners infringing upon their work.

  13. Mutt….tell us where you work and we’ll find volunteers to do your job and then listen to you squeal.

  14. commoncents says:

    slick provided a little detail but not all of it. Chain gangs are being used only in Maricopa County —Joe Arpaio. Nowhere else in the country is it being done. Arpaio is nuts And it does require more guards – you have them in multiple places so you will need multiple guards. The guard:inmate ratio increases once you get out of the prison walls. And those state work crew members? They walk away all the time. Don’t think that they won’t risk going back to jail for a little booze, weed, or tail…they all think they won’t get caught. While legal…this would be the ultimate in a NIMBY issue. Everyone would be for it but not in their neighborhood.

  15. Several states use prison labor and compete with private enterprise. In the federal prisons, prisoners must make the prevailing wage for the industry, and work for contractors, not the prisons.

    That law does not apply to states, and there have been consequences. Low-cost furniture making has almost been taken over by several states’ prisons, and they ship all over the USA. Several competing private companies sued, but lost, so they went out of business.

    I am surprised that anyone who believes in private enterprise would support taking away jobs and giving them to prisoners who make 23-28 cents per hour and take jobs away from middle-class families.

    It seems to cut some costs in the short run, but in the long run it harms our economy.

  16. APimpNamedSlickback says:


    Actually, I gave pretty accurate details. Chain-gangs are operated in at least five of Arizona’s counties, as well as several in Texas and Florida. Joe Arpaio is probably best known for his chain-gangs, but he is certainly not the only sheriff operating them. As for the guard:inmate ratio on Maricopa County crews, it’s somewhere in the range of 4:20 – 4:25. Yes, that is a higher ratio than what they have inside the jail walls, but don’t think that if there weren’t chain-gangs those guards wouldn’t be getting paid the same to be inside one of the jails.

    In Arizona, county jails are strictly for the detention of pre-trial and trial-phase detainees, pre-sentence convicts and convicts awaiting transfer to prison. Arizona is the only state in the nation that houses inmates (both felony and misdemeanor) in state prisons. Misdemeanor and minor felony sentences are not served in county jails in Arizona. County chain-gangs never include pre-trial or trial-phase detainees, and they are chained specifically because they are at the start of their sentence and deemed the most likely to attempt escape; although no one has ever escaped from a county chain-gang in Arizona.

    As for the state prison work crews, I’m only aware of one escape in recent history, and it prompted a policy change to only allow those who are within a year of release to be on the crews. These inmates are not in Joe Arpaio’s custody, and they work at various locations throughout the state, usually within a 10 minute drive of a prison. I work in complex adjacent to the state capitol complex. State inmates are mowing the lawn across the street from me as I type this.

    It’s not a NIMBY situation… I want these guys doing this work. It saves me and other taxpayers lots of money over having to pay for private contractors to do the work.

  17. theglovesRoff says:

    Now karnitos wants to prevent citizens from giving back to their community. Typical leftist.

    Or someone who enjoys inflating his ego by getting his teeth in EVERY LTE.

    Mr. F-5

  18. commoncents says:

    Please provide support for your assertion that there are chain gangs where you say there are. Any documentation that I have found states that they either are no longer doing it or the inmates are individually shackled rather than chained together. Except of course for Arpaio…

    Having worked in a State of Washington DOC felony work release facility, I can tell you that people out on work release can and do have the opportunity to break laws. Given that opportunity they can and do break them. Typically they do not escape in the typcial sense but are caught at a known establishment (home of a known acquaintance, nearby bar, or most often after coming back to the facility on their own). Of course there were no shackles on these folks.

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