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Jail program books its first outside job

March 14, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Prison's Jail Industries Program has its first job - reconditioning helmets and washing uniforms for a local semi-pro football team.

Inmate labor will be used to repaint the helmets of the Cumberland Valley Cardinals, a team in the North American Football League that plays its games in Shippensburg, Pa., said Warden John Wetzel.

"We needed our helmets painted and the Jail Industries program needed a project. We have our tryouts in less than a month ... so it's time to start cranking it up for the new season," Cardinals owner Chad Fauson said.

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Prisoners also will do the team's laundry after practices and games, said Wetzel, a former semi-pro player for another team and offensive coordinator for the Cardinals. Laundering the uniforms was left to the players in previous seasons, he said.

"He'd lose a lot of uniforms that way," Wetzel said, referring to Fauson. "Uniforms aren't cheap."

Fauson said team tryouts begin next month. The season begins in July and can last into October, depending on whether the team makes the playoffs, Wetzel said.

Wetzel said the prison will charge $1.50 to launder a uniform and the team usually has about 50 players on its roster. The work will be done by inmates who are not eligible for work-release opportunities outside the prison, Wetzel said.

Washing uniforms is a small beginning, but one Wetzel believes fits well with what the prison can do at this point. The prison, due to be replaced in about two years by a $30 million building, has labor to offer, but little else, he said.

"The big picture here is we're trying to build up capital," Wetzel said. Money left over after inmates are paid will be used to help fund future jail industries.

"We need jobs like this, because there's not a lot of overhead," he said. "We may need to lay some money out to make some money" for future jail industries programs, the warden said.

Wetzel said he has looked at jail industry programs in other cities, counties and states, and sees possibilities in providing services to local governments, nonprofit groups and schools that do not compete directly with private industry. Envelope stuffing for nonprofit groups and scanning government documents are two examples he cited of work that could be done within prison walls.

"The Jail Industries Advisory Board has done a great job of setting parameters and helping us decide good work opportunities that won't negatively impact the local businessman," Wetzel said. "We have some pretty solid prospects."

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