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Smithsburg hears proposal to let state inmates do town maintenance work

October 29, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

SMITHSBURG -- Smithsburg officials heard a presentation Tuesday about the possibility of using inmates from the state correctional system to plant trees, build signs and do other work around town, free of charge.

A similar partnership has been a success in Williamsport, where a small inmate crew works regularly to maintain a park and a town-owned cemetery, said Cornelius Woodson, special assistant to the secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Councilmembers questioned Woodson on who would supervise the inmates and how lunch breaks and restroom facilities would be handled.

The type of supervision depends on the classification of the inmates, Woodson said. Williamsport uses prerelease inmates, who are nearing the end of their sentences and are eligible for work release, Woodson said. Inmates in this category can be supervised by a town employee, he said. Minimum or medium security crews would be supervised by correctional employees, Woodson said.

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The town would have to provide restrooms for the inmate workers and would have the option to provide lunch for them. If the town did not provide lunch, the correctional facility could send bagged lunches for the workers, Woodson said.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said the town has several projects that could be accomplished with inmate labor, including building a new gateway sign, planting trees in Veterans Park, and clearing brush in both Veterans Park and Lions Community Park.

"This would save the town some money that we could use elsewhere," Myers said.

Woodson said the arrangement would be a win-win situation.

"We believe we can help you and we believe you can make a difference in the inmates' lives," he said.

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