Prison work squads are as old prisons themselves. But the state has slashed the number of work squads since the new budget took effect in July. Motorist Toby Edwards doesn’t think that’s good for roadways or the prisoners.
“They eat good and the state takes care of them but that’s coming from the taxpayers,” Edwards said. “So they should be the ones out there picking up the trash.”
Another motorist, Steve Bedosky thinks the work should be contracted to private companies.
“I’ve never really been in favor of taking those jobs away from the private sector and putting prisoners out there at a lower price,” Bedosky said.
But local governments don’t have the resources, which means the work will often go undone.
71 crews like this one are being cut. That’s going to mean taller grass, more trash on the road, and costs being shifted.
The Department of Corrections was forced by lawmakers to spend 24 million dollars opening a private prison orchestrated by disgraced former speaker Ray Sansom. The private prison took money from the work squads, even though new projections show the 2200 private prison beds weren’t needed.
The union representing correctional officers understands the need to keep staffing up inside prison fences, but it objects to the work squad cuts on moral grounds.
“It’s just sad that the public has to pay for the legislature’s irresponsibility,” Al Shopp with the Police Benevolent Association said.
But unless funding improves, prisoners will be spending more time behind bars and less time cleaning up roadsides.
The state is cutting 71 of 180 work squads across the state.