FEBRUARY 28, 1996

RALEIGH - A letter will soon be in the mail to county leaders about putting state prison inmates to work.

The letter will inform county leaders of their opportunity to use the Governor's Community Work Program for short term, manual labor projects. Correctional officers from prisons with the minimum custody work program have been able to keep a steady stream of work for inmates by staying in contact with government officials and agencies.

"We want to put more inmates to work and we want them to tackle jobs for local governments," said state Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "Our letters will give local leaders program guidelines and let them know they can call their local prison or the toll-free inmate work hotline."

Calls to the hotline, 1-800-661-7161, are answered in the office of Keith Hester, Chief of Program Services for state prisons. His staff answers questions about the program and puts prisons with community work programs in touch with callers suggesting jobs.

"We've just finished a job we found through the toll-free inmate work hotline," said Gary Newkirk, Durham Correctional Center superintendent. "The Duke Homestead Association heard about the phone line through news reports and called the number."

Inmates from Newkirk's prison worked at Duke Homestead Feb. 18-23. Inmates cleaned an apple orchard, painted buildings and helped lay a brick walkway.

As a state historic site, the Duke Homestead project met the work program's guidelines. Inmates only work on public projects. Federal, state and local government agencies contract with prisons for the work.

Inmates from Umstead Correctional Center began work Monday on projects in Warrenton, a result of a town official's call to the hotline.There are now 84 squads of minimum custody inmates at 33 prisons in the Governor's community work program. The work program began last year. During 1995 inmates worked 760,000 hours for local governments and state agencies.