Honest day's work

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Cleaning up Richmond County is only part of the job.

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Robert Ealy, a detail supervisor for the Georgia Department of Corrections, watches over state inmates as they clear a retention pond on Woodlake Drive in Augusta. Mr. Ealy says the work in the community boosts inmates' self-esteem.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Robert Ealy, a detail supervisor for the Georgia Department of Corrections, watches over state inmates as they clear a retention pond on Woodlake Drive in Augusta. Mr. Ealy says the work in the community boosts inmates' self-esteem.

On any given day, up to 175 inmates in white jumpsuits can be seen working along local highways. Viewed from a car window, they move deliberately -- cleaning roadside trash, clearing retention ponds and maintaining local ball fields. They are out there to help keep the county clean, but they are also there for a second chance, prison officials say.

"I really feel like it's an esteem builder, and it has to evoke some type of do-right feeling in them," said Robert Ealy, a Georgia Department of Corrections detail supervisor.

Mr. Ealy made his assessment on a recent Friday while standing near a large, mostly dry, retention pond off Tobacco Road, watching an eight-man work crew cut grass as high as their knees.

After seven years on the job, Mr. Ealy said, his impressions of his work and of the inmates have changed. As a child growing up in Augusta, he said he would see guards holding firearms as they watched inmates at work.

Now, Mr. Ealy said, he doesn't carry so much as a can of pepper spray.

Part of the reason, according to Richmond County Correctional Institute Warden Robert Leverett, is that the inmates are low- to medium-security individuals who have been through two security screenings.

"They are all nonviolent offenders," he said. "Forgery, burglary, drug possession or something of that nature (are their charges)."

The warden said they don't worry too much about them trying to escape either.

Most have come from much more restrictive prisons and are close, sometimes weeks, from parole.

To further limit temptation, none of the inmates is assigned to work in the area where they were sentenced.

"That's simply because we have to send people out to work and we would not want to send them to your neighborhood if they had burglarized your home," he said. The majority of the inmates working in Richmond County come from the Savannah area, he said.

Despite such precautions, the public is warned not to get too friendly with the men trimming grass or chopping weeds.

The inmates are forbidden from taking anything, including a cool glass of something to drink, from onlookers.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT DO THEY DO?

BY THE NUMBERS

200 : The number of workers at Richmond County Correctional Institute, the largest cleaning crew in the county.

175 : The number of inmates doing jobs in Richmond County during the workweek.

8 : The number of men in a typical work detail.

Source: Warden Robert Leverett

RICHMOND COUNTY:

Inmates work eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. Their duties include clearing retention ponds, painting fire hydrants, planting and pruning trees, building and repairing fences for the Solid Waste Department, cooking and barbering.

AIKEN COUNTY:

About 12 prisoners are able to work outside the detention center at the sheriff's office, for North Augusta Public Works and at the Aiken County Probate office, sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said. They typically do manual labor and help clean the sheriff's office.

COLUMBIA COUNTY:

Inmates in Columbia County have already cleaned about 400 miles of road this year, according to sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris. There are two details, and each has six inmates.

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TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/08/08 - 12:33 am
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Evidently SC need to change

Evidently SC need to change their work detail policy then because the inmate who walked off the other day was a violent offender and evidently was not supervised enough because they arent sure when he left!!! This type of program is good for the non violent offenders, but I still say bring back the chain gangs for the real [filtered word]'s!!!!!! Not only should they work to pay for their support but also as punishment for what they have done. Confinement is not enough!!!!!!

Reality
3
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Reality 09/08/08 - 04:22 am
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Shakin the bush boss, shakin

Shakin the bush boss, shakin the bush...

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11294
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/08/08 - 05:54 am
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Reality, what we have here is

Reality, what we have here is a failure to communicate!

WhatNow
35
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WhatNow 09/08/08 - 07:55 am
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They need to have more crews

They need to have more crews out and about cleaning the roadsides. With all the talk of prison overcrowding, there should be plenty of inmates available to keep the grass and bushes along the roadway cut. I'm all for building their self esteem, so get them out there cutting more grass...

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 09/08/08 - 09:31 am
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Everyone getting a sentence

Everyone getting a sentence that will keep them in prison for more then two years should be required to learn a trade and should work at the states benefit for their entire sentence. Everyone getting any prison time should be on a "labor for profit" crew. Not only would it help offset the cost of keeping them, it would give them a taste of what accomplishment means.

Trouble706
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Trouble706 09/08/08 - 11:40 am
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Today, I am a successful

Today, I am a successful businessman. I own a web design company that is doing well. But, it hasn't always been that way. I spent several years in prison because I allowed myself to "enjoy" the effects of cocaine.
What made the difference? Not the details or the supervision. The only reason that I am successful in life today is because I made up my mind that I wanted more out of life than a prison cell. That is the only thing that will change anyone else in prison. No amount of punishment, isolation, or "chain gang" will do it.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/08/08 - 01:03 pm
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But it will provide

But it will provide punishment to those who have no remorse and will to change. also if they worked hard labor for 12 hours a day it would cut down on the violence and gang activity someone. These people would be paying for their own support and not the innocent taxpayers. It would possibly make jail a little less desirable becuase most are scared of a hard days work. Confinement alone is not working as you can tell by the number of repeat offenders. And the overcrowding is making it to where people who should be in jail and punished arent and are allowed out to rob another hard working individual and possibly escalate to violence, still not much time. Kudos to you Trouble706. I am very happy you turned your life around. I just think punishment still has a place in the system, and the current system is a joke. They want more tv's to keep the peace, well that would also happen if they had to work hard everyday!!! I agree people can make mistakes and change, but not most of these violent ones do. An you are exactly right, only the criminal can decide in his heart he wants to change. And sadly, cases like you are more rare than common, but wtg for your accomplishments!!!!!

Trouble706
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Trouble706 09/08/08 - 02:45 pm
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TakeAstand, I agree with 97%

TakeAstand, I agree with 97% of what you said..I really do. Here is the thing. I spent my last 9 months of incarceration at a drug rehab unit at Homerville State Prison. That was the hardest part of my time. Not because of any factor other than people who didn't want to be there. Unfortunately the system is set up in such a way so that people are picked at random to go to these type programs.
Many of them don't want to be there. I have seen people tell the warden they didn't want to be there and would rather go back to a general population prison. It done no good. They were required to be there because of the tax money the system receives from those in this type program.
Now, imagine the difficulty in a 50 man dorm when only 10 want to receive some form of help. The other 40 want to talk about drugs and "thugging" and such as that. It makes life extremely difficult for those who do want help.
So, when I said that nothing can cause change in a person except the desire to change, that is what I am referring to. People in prison should not be allowed to sit and do nothing. I agree. But unless they want to change, no amount of work or correction is going to have any effect.

Trouble706
0
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Trouble706 09/08/08 - 02:47 pm
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That is not to say they

That is not to say they shouldn't be punished and required to work. It is simply a fact that the punishment and other requirements are not going to have the desired effect in most cases if the person does not have that desire to change. No, scratch desire......If the person does not have the determination to change.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/08/08 - 03:48 pm
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I agree, but bottom line like

I agree, but bottom line like I said, is the citizens shouldn't have to pay for their incarceration or be subjected to those let out due to overcrowding. If the system was self supportive for the most part by the imates working, it may not change them on the inside but will help take the burden off innocent taxpayers. It is the least they could do!! things such as it being a deterrant is just a bonus. But there is no excuse for them not to be working these people. If hard labor is the only thing they can give back to society, why not take it?

Trouble706
0
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Trouble706 09/08/08 - 04:22 pm
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In that I definitely agree

In that I definitely agree with you. In one of the prisons where I was, there were over 1200 people. Only a small percentage of that number had a detail or work assignment. I, by no means am taking the side of either the administration or of the inmates. But it is almost a Catch 22. Because of the number of people housed in that prison, there just were not enough work assignments to go around. I do believe that the state could do more to create more contracts for work assignments, at least there they could have. Some of the prisons in the rural areas, maybe they can't...
But here is the thing, they pay the correctional staff at such a low rate that they cannot keep employees. Without the staff to supervise the work details, there is no need in having the contracts.
What I am really saying is that there would have to be a total revamping of the system in order for it to produce the results that it should be producing. For example, there would have to be an initial expenditure to raise salaries so that employees would stay. This would have to involve an increase in taxes. Then, there would be supervision to allow for the number of details that would be needed.

Trouble706
0
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Trouble706 09/08/08 - 04:28 pm
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Perhaps, some of the money

Perhaps, some of the money spent could be recouped from the contract labor. But there would absolutely have to be an initial increase in taxes.
And then in an economy such as at Homerville, what happens to the people who are forced out of jobs because the Dept. of Corrections would have those contracts? There is not that much industry in some of the areas where they have built prisons.
Once again, yes people in prison should be required to work but in some of these areas, when a prison detail is cutting grass, there have been jobs taken from that community.
It is an interesting subject. But it is one that I, with the experience that I have from my incarceration, see no economically sound solution for.

Reality
3
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Reality 09/08/08 - 04:46 pm
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trouble706, you seem to have

trouble706, you seem to have had the right attitude. Prison did what it was intended to do, you took a deep look at yourself and decided that you didn't want that. I commend you for sticking with it. The realization is as you stated most of these people just don't want help, until they do, jail will be a revolving door for them....

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 09/08/08 - 05:02 pm
0
0
You are right it takes to

You are right it takes to much to punish criminals the way they should, and the citizens will always pay one way or another. Criminals rights and money issues override public safety so much theses days it is sickening.

Trouble706
0
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Trouble706 09/08/08 - 05:13 pm
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Thank You Reality. It was a

Thank You Reality. It was a wake up call for me. And though I do hate thinking about the time that I wasted, I realize that the time I spent in prison made me the person that I am today. Simply because, it gave me time to think and to realize what was most important in my life.
I lost several family members while incarcerated, including my father. I wasn't able to attend his funeral. And that still hurts. But, once while in the midst of my addiction, he came to my house. I never saw my father cry until that day, but he cried. And he said he would gladly give up his life if that is what it took to get me off drugs. The knowledge that he died while I was in prison for drugs just tears me up. But it also gives me added strength to live in a way that is productive. Sure, I have been tempted to use again. But most of those temptations have left me now. I know that I can be content without the drugs.
That is really what it takes for anybody. A wake up and a realization that there is much more to life than a high.
I am in the process of developing a couple of web sites now that will help other people just being released to find contentment and satisfaction in life.

Trouble706
0
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Trouble706 09/08/08 - 05:14 pm
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If that is what they are

If that is what they are looking for.

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