Inmate labor produces efficiency, cost savings for ITD,
valuable experience/training for inmates
State budgets are tight, and any cost savings are significant. Partnerships are one way to achieve those savings. That’s why a report of another 6,200 pounds of trash sitting in the landfill is good news for Treasure Valley residents.
Litter collection is one task that easily lends itself to teamwork. Collecting the roadside refuse has been a boon for ITD, IDOC (Idaho Department of Corrections), inmates, and Idaho taxpayers. It’s really a win-win-win relationship.
Canyon County Inmate labor crews collected trash for the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office along a six-mile stretch of westbound Interstate 84 near Nampa and Caldwell in late January. Besides litter pick-up, inmate labor crews are also used by ITD for vehicle maintenance, grounds keeping, sign and guardrail repair, traffic control, yard and building maintenance, plowing parking lots and shoveling snow. The use of inmate labor to accomplish some of these tasks, at a significantly reduced wage, is another example of an ITD efficiency measure, achieved through partnership.
ITD pays IDOC $7 to $8.50 per hour per inmate, plus mileage on the department's vans and the travel time and overtime for the IDOC officer in charge. ITD is making the most of available resources, and it is not costing extra for Idaho taxpayers – good news on both counts. IDOC provides tools and equipment for the inmates, plus necessary training (such as traffic control).
“It’s more than just a matter of savings,” said Dan Bryant, maintenance supervisor of ITD’s Southwest Idaho region. “If we did not have the inmates, we would not be able to hire more people to do that work. The biggest part of that budget would simply disappear."
In other words, it is not so much a matter of savings generated, but rather efficiency – if ITD was unable to use inmate labor, the department simply would not hire people to do the cleanups, and that work would not be done.
"We can get a lot of work done in much less time,” Bryant explained. “If you translated that half million dollars (the budgeted amount for the region is $525,000) into full-time wages, what would it come to with benefits? For that same amount, we can get 32 inmates to help us. Not full time, but when it counts.”
The program has been in place for nearly 20 years and has been a great benefit to both state agencies, as well as the inmates themselves. ITD’s Southwest Idaho office uses the program most extensively, but it also is used in other ITD districts.
“It’s a good thing for the inmates, too,” Bryant said. “I personally know of several folks that, after they got out of prison, have gone on to jobs that our training helped them with,” he added. “I have heard that the inmates benefit greatly from the work experience, the chance to interact with our crews and that the money they earn gives them a boost when they get out of the penitentiary.”
“From my point of view, the areas that the inmates help us the most wth is in traffic control, which frees ITD equipment operators to run machinery and work on the technical aspects of maintenance, and in hand work such as fence repair and guardrail repair,” said Bryant.
“A crew of inmates can turn a lot of wrenches in a very short time,” he said. “If we have the replacement parts on hand, an inmate crew working with our crews can replace a considerable amount of damaged guardrail in a day.”
Inmate Labor Detail
- More than 11,000 hours working on bituminous pavement repair
- More than 4,000 hours working on concrete pavement repair
- More than 5,000 hours of bridge repair
- More than 15,000 hours of vegetation management
- Almost 6,000 hours of litter pickup and roadkill disposal
- Almost 4,00 hours of fence repair
- 11,600 hours of drainage work
- More than 8,000 hours of sign and guardrail repair
- And more than 15,000 hours of miscellaneous maintenance, which includes disaster mitigation, yard/building maintenance, sweeping and emergency maintenance
Inmate Labor Activities
Plow parking lots
Litter pick up
Sign and guardrail repair
Chipping & hauling tree limbs