AUGUST 3, 1995
ROCKY MOUNT - Fountain Correctional Center for Women has become the state's first female prison to put inmates to work in the Community Work Program which started in January.
By 7:30 each morning, more than two dozen inmates are taken by two correctional officers to Rocky Mount Senior High and Northern Nash High schools. This is where they'll spend the rest of the day doing yard work and painting under intense heat. Across the state, inmates have worked on more than 700 projects similar to the one at Rocky Mount.
"Governor Hunt wants to see every able-bodied inmate working and this department plans to make that happen," said Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "It's a win-win situation because working inmates help themselves as well as taxpayers."
Upon arriving at Rocky Mount Senior High, the first group of inmates quickly unload all their maintenance equipment and get to work, hoping to get a lot done before the sun becomes unbearable. By mid-morning, the mercury in the thermometer on this July day has pushed beyond the 90-degree mark. In spite of the sticky, humid weather, inmates continue their fast-paced work schedule.
Three inmates are pushing noisy lawn mowers back and forth across the front yard of the campus, four are raking and piling the stacks of weeds and grass into trash bags. Two others are trimming around trees and corners with weed-eaters. Inmates' faces are covered with beads of sweat and their shirts are drenched with perspiration.
All the inmates are trained in how to safely operate the maintenance equipment.
"This work is a good experience," said Susan Taylor, an inmate. "I'm learning the
importance of patience and working together. This campus looks a lot better than it did when we first got here." Taylor likes yard work and said she hopes to get a job in the landscaping business once she gets out of prison.
"I'm learning how to do something useful rather than a crime," said Aprilyn Ellerby, an inmate from Wilmington who has been at Fountain for five months.
A few miles down the road at Northern Nash High School, other inmates are busy painting hallways throughout the school. They also have been trained on proper painting techniques.
"This wall was in bad shape and had a lot of peeling," explains inmate Marie Downey from Winston-Salem. "I had to scrape it a lot before putting on a fresh coat of paint." Another inmate, Monique Cheek said, "It's not easy and you figure that this hard work is worth more than the dollar a day we're paid. But I keep working because I know that in the long run, I will benefit from the work. I want to do a good job and keep the Community Work Program going. It's a good opportunity for me."
"These female inmates are doing an excellent job in what was previously a male-dominated profession," said Fountain Correctional Center superintendent Bonnie Boyette. "They're learning important skills they can use when they're released from prison."