County explores inmate labor

Published 7:26 pm Friday, March 5, 2010

The Pike County Commission is expected to continue its discussion of using county inmates for road department labor when it convenes Monday.

In the last commission meeting, County Engineer Russell Oliver proposed commissioners allow the use of Pike County Jail inmates to assist in road maintenance. This would be to compensate for the shortage in the department’s staff.

“With the cuts we’ve made in personnel, we’re always looking for ways to get work done,” Oliver said.

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Oliver said currently, the county has major bridge maintenance needs and not enough staff to quickly move the projects along.

“I’ve been told other counties do it,” Oliver said.

Sonny Brasfield, director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said several counties throughout the state utilize county employees for road and other types of labor.

“I wouldn’t be able to say how many counties were using them this afternoon, but in most counties the inmates are used to do one form of labor or another,” Brasfield said.

“Statewide the county inmates are used for a variety of labor purposes and certainly for working on roads.”

This was a proposal not foreign to the government body.

“They’ve tried to do this before…and our insurance wouldn’t allow it,” said District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris.

Commissioners made no vote, but discussion indicated they might be interested in the idea.

“If we can get it done, I think we ought to use them,” said District 2 Commissioner Robin Sullivan.

Commissioners charged Oliver, along with County Administrator Harry Sanders and County Attorney Allen Jones, with determining the liability factors of this idea.

“When we checked into it before, at that point, the liability policy said there was no liability coverage for anything that might occur by or to an inmate,” Jones said. “The idea was stopped because of the liability insurance issue.”

But, the three officials will work with an insurance company to get this answer before bringing to the commission table for a final OK.

As of Friday afternoon, Sanders said they had not reached a recommendation for the commission.

“We have to look at what the risk would be with our liability and our workman’s comp insurance,” Sanders said. “We’ll try to have it for Monday.”

The commission will meet 6 p.m. Monday at the Pike County Health Department.