Daily Journal

When the Johnson County Public Library needed to tear out old carpet, move shelves and transport stacks of books from one area of the library to the other, employees weren’t sure how they were going to get it done.

Heavy lifting would just be one portion of the several days of labor it would take to rearrange and renovate the Franklin branch. And when officials looked into hiring a moving company to help with the project, the cost was thousands of dollars.

Then they heard about a program that would take care of the manual labor while eliminating the cost: offenders nearing the end of their sentence.

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The Edinburgh correctional facility sent six offenders to work about 70 hours over a three-week span, moving book shelves, tearing up carpet and transferring books to different parts of the library. Library officials estimated the savings to taxpayers at $7,000.

At the Edinburgh correctional facility, more than 200 offenders nearing the end of their jail sentence work on crews that are available to help with projects that have a return, or benefit, to the community.

The Edinburgh correctional facility is a minimum security jail that houses nonviolent and non-sexual criminal offenders with sentences no longer than five years. The correctional facility has about 40 crews, usually made up of five or six offenders, who spend time on jobs similar to the project at the library.

The offenders are supervised and can be used for only county, city or nonprofit organization projects. Crews have worked on home restoration projects and cleaning up after natural disasters. Many of the inmates have trade skills they are learning or already have, such as experience as a plumber or electrician.

Monday through Friday, many offenders who are eligible to work do landscaping and yard care jobs, like mowing the grass at Camp Atterbury.

This program offers a valuable service to the community. More important, though, it is of significant value to the inmates. Not only do they get a welcome break from life in the facility, in some cases they learn job skills that will help transition to life after prison. But most of all, they get the satisfaction from knowing they are helping and making a difference in the community.

This kind of effort should be supported and expanded where possible.

At issue

Life in Indiana prisons is necessarily regimented, but it can be tedious for inmates.

Our point

Outside labor projects, such as one recently completed at the Franklin library, offer inmates a chance to improve their skills.