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Rogers County saves thousands of dollars using skilled inmates to complete massive jail renovation

Jan 18, 2015 | by Nation_Inside_Team

The Rogers County jail currently houses about 250 inmates serving their debts to society, and now many of them are working to help keep the county out of debt. Jail officials said they are saving a significant amount of money by using inmates as labor to complete a massive renovation. “We essentially started at one end of the jail and worked our way through the whole jail, reworking the whole jail,” said Maj. Bob Darby with the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.

CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Rogers County jail currently houses about 250 inmates serving their debts to society, and now many of them are working to help keep the county out of debt.

Jail officials said they are saving a significant amount of money by using inmates as labor to complete a massive renovation.

"We essentially started at one end of the jail and worked our way through the whole jail, reworking the whole jail," said Maj. Bob Darby with the Rogers County Sheriff's Office.

The facility, which opened almost 14 years ago, badly needed repairs, Maj. Darby said. Instead of hiring contractors from the outside, jail officials decided to look inward for help.

Maj. Darby said it was easy to figure out what skills the inmates had. When anyone is booked into the jail, he said they're asked to provide information about their previous employment or special skills. That information revealed that a few inmates were licensed plumbers, electricians and experienced construction workers.

"These guys are not just sitting in the housing unit," Maj. Darby said. "We're putting them to use. They're working 10 to 12 hours just like us, and they're fixing the facility."

Gilbert Rodriguez, who landed in jail four months ago for drugs, is a licensed plumber, and said the jail put his skills and experience to use.

"We did the showers completely. We did a lot of the plumbing in there," he said. "We did a lot of painting and just a lot of upkeep and general maintenance throughout the building."

Some of the licensed electricians also helped install new, more efficient lighting in the inmates' living quarters.

"I guarantee it saved us at least $100,000," Maj. Darby said. "Nothing against hiring contractors on the outside, but if you can do it for yourself at home, you're doing to do that at home. By having these licensed guys here, I know that (the work) is to code, and it's not a hodgepodge thing. We're fixing it like you would want your house fixed."

Inmates also installed chalkboards throughout the jail to cut back the graffiti, which previously cost the jail thousands of dollars to paint over.

Rodriguez, who used to work for his brother's upholstery business, is also helping sew new covers for the tattered sleeping mats that needed to be replaced. Each mat that receives a new cover saves the county about $90, Maj. Darby said.

"(The inmates) are not trying to figure out how to escape. We're not letting them work on the locks and say, 'Hey, you push this button and walk out the door,'" Maj. Darby said. "They're doing the hard maintenance stuff that we'd have to hire out, and that's saved us a lot of money and time."

All the inmates selected to help out with this project are considered trustees, which means their work is carefully supervised by guards and the jail's maintenance staff.

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