Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brush With The Law: Inmates Paint Collier Jail For Big Savings

The Collier County jail is looking brighter thanks to paint-brush-wielding inmates who are sprucing up the facility, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Since early April, inmates have been working eight-hour days painting the 25 housing areas and hallways of the 132,000-square-foot, three-story medium security jail at Collier County Sheriff’s Office headquarters in East Naples. Once completed, inmates will start painting the adjacent 96,000-square-foot maximum security jail.

“Every wall, every bunk, every surface that can be painted has been painted,” Jail Logistics and Support Cmdr. Kevin McGowan said of the project so far.

CCSO has been using inmates to paint the jail since 1981. It started under retired jail Lt. Louis Gibbs, who saw it as a way to save taxpayers money while teaching inmates a life skill.

The initiative has paid off even today.

“We’re saving about a quarter of a million dollars using inmate labor to paint the jail instead of private contractors,” Cmdr. McGowan said.

Jail Operations Cmdr. Patricia Gifford said the painting initiative is a great benefit to the CCSO members who work at the jail and the inmates who live there.

“It provides for upkeeping and deep cleaning of the inmate housing areas,” Cmdr. Gifford said. “The amount of wear, tear and usage is a lot faster and more intense, when large amounts of people live together, as in our situation. I am pleased to see these areas being maintained.”

The medium security jail hasn’t been painted since it opened in 2005. The older, maximum security jail, built in 1985, was last painted in 2008.

Bright white walls have replaced dull white walls. Painting the dull gray floors beige was Jail Captain Beth Richards’ idea. Marine Industrial Paint Co. of St. Petersburg had never mixed that color of beige before and named the new color “Collier County Sheriff’s Office Beige.”

The new paint job is being carried out by six sentenced inmates. The inmates are learning job skills and will receive a certificate of achievement for their file that they can show to prospective employers once they’ve served their time.

The project is overseen by Sgt. Jimmy Delashmet and one deputy is assigned to the painting crew.

Using inmate labor to save money is nothing new at CCSO. For example, the CCSO Inmate Labor Program saves Collier County Domestic Animal Services more than $100,000 per year by providing inmates to clean kennels and care for shelter animals. Inmates are also used daily at the agency to move furniture, lift heavy objects or perform other tasks that typically would be carried out by hired professionals.