Friday, May 21, 2010

Mendocino County Grand jury urges greater use of inmate services

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/20/2010 10:47:29 AM PDT

Government entities should use inmates for a range of services, according to a recommendation the Mendocino County grand jury released Friday.

The grand jury report, titled "Doing Community Service!" says the services include fighting fires, road work, wood work, grounds maintenance and others, and are available at a nominal cost to any agency supported by taxes.

The county's two conservation camps are run by Conservation Camp Corps, and are an alternative to sending inmates to state prisons. They are located in the Jackson State Demonstration Forest, between Willits and Fort Bragg.

The report details how the conservation camps work.

Each camp can hold up to 110 inmates, housed in barracks-style buildings. Both camps have five fire crews, each containing 13 to 17 inmates and a Cal Fire captain. Another crew of three to five inmates staffs the brigade and helps with emergencies within nine miles of the camp.

They get fire training at the Susanville Prison and at camp.

When not fighting fires, the crews provide labor during floods, rescues and conservation projects.

Inmates who aren't on fire crews are assigned duties in camp, including mechanics, tool maintenance, cooking, laundry, carpentry, welding and sewing.

Inmates at both camps are paid $1.45 to $3.90 per day for working and $1 per hour when fighting fires. The income is put in a savings account and paid on release.

Inmates who were not convicted of violent or sexual crimes, or arson are eligible to live and work at the conservation camps.

The grand jury report notes it costs $46,000 annually to house an inmate in a state prison. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation pays $14,000 annually to house an inmate at a conservation camp.

At the Parlin Forks Conservation Camp, inmates are supervised by a lieutenant, a sergeant and nine correctional officers from the DCR. Cal Fire staff includes a division chief, an administrative captain, an operation captain, seven fire captains, a water/sewer plant operator, a heavy equipment operator and mechanic, and an office technician who spends time at both camps.

Fruit and vegetables from an on-site garden supplement the inmates' meals.

Parlin Forks operates a saw mill, cutting, milling and drying the lumber, and making furniture and cabinetry out of it for government agencies.

At the Chamberlain Creek Conservation Camp, inmates are supervised by a lieutenant, two supervisors, a sergeant and eight correctional officers.

Cal Fire staff includes a division chief, an administrative captain, an operation captain, seven fire captains and a water treatment plant operator.

The soil is poor for gardening, but the camp recently brought in soil and planted a small garden.

Chamberlain Creek's kitchen crew cooks and serves a community Thanksgiving dinner at the Harrah Senior Center in Willits every year.

The grand jury's findings include the state's desire to build more conservation camps instead of maximum-security prisons, a recommendation to keep running them as they are, and a recommendation for government agencies to use the inmate crews as often as possible.

No comments: