OCTOBER 12, 1995

State prisoners are working in cemeteries, at sewage plants and inside drain culverts, doing unsavory jobs that need to be done for government agencies.

While paying for their crimes through scraping, painting, planting, chopping and other such jobs, state inmates are saving thousands of taxpayer dollars in numerous communities and winning high praise.

One principal said his school looked brand new after the inmates were through working there. The mayor of Pollocksville said he could not begin to estimate the amount of town tax dollars inmate labor saved his town in turning four acres of underbrush into a "beautifully cleared lot." The mayor of Windsor estimated inmates saved their town three thousand dollars by picking up debris in their recreational areas and cemetery.

Most recently, inmates from Avery and Haywood correctional centers have been hauling fallen trees and cleaning out debris left in the wake of Hurricane Opal on Oct. 5. Some inmates in Jackson County are working 10-hour days clearing roads.

"These labor-intensive jobs are ideal for inmate labor," Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman said. "This allows us to work towards Gov. Jim Hunt's goal of putting more inmates to work while providing a valuable labor force to complete needed projects in our communities."

From the mountains to the coast, inmates have improved the appearance of North Carolina communities. In Wilkes County, inmates spent last month painting the gym of East Wilkes High School; clearing brush, laying gravel and planting trees at Wilkes Community College; replacing shingles at the Mount Jefferson State Park ranger residence; cleaning out a ditch near the Yadkin River for the Town of Wilkesboro; and doing trail maintenance work at Stone Mountain State Park.

In Caldwell County, the City of Lenoir requested help on painting rails around the Lake Rhodhioo Water Plant and cutting brush around the boundaries of Bellview Cemetery. The town of Granite Falls contracted for help with cleaning curbs, gutters and storm drains along roads.

In Randolph County, 14 inmates helped refurbish Braxton-Craven Elementary School's gym which termites had devastated. The inmates from Randolph Correctional Center stained bleachers, scraped and painted walls, cleaned locker rooms and showers and removed kudzu around the outside.

Montgomery Correctional Center inmates this week are cutting underbrush from power poles for the Town of Robbins, picking up litter and cutting grass for West Montgomery High School's football field and cleaning curbs and gutters for the Town of Troy and the Town of Biscoe. Next week they will be clearing fields for the N.C. Wildlife Commission.

In Sanford, prisoners were cutting vines and overgrowth around city water towers, cutting rights-of-way to sewer lines, trimming hedges and trees around city hall, cutting undergrowth around the city dog kennel, cleaning up debris and landscaping at Sunset Park and cleaning trails and flower beds for the Cape Fear Botanical Garden.

Orange Correctional Center inmates were washing school buses for Durham County schools, cutting brush and cleaning ditches for the City of Graham and cutting brush at Falls Lake. From Oct. 18 to Oct. 31, inmates will be cutting brush around the Camp Butner Training Range.

Further to the east, inmates at Greene Correctional Center spent last month digging ditches for the towns of Grifton and Lucama, sweeping curbing and gutters throughout Snow Hill, clearing shrubbery out of a fall ditch that leads to a Stantonburg cemetery, doing general grounds work at West Greene Elementary School and Greene County Central High School.

A dozen inmates from Duplin Correctional Center worked around the Calypso Town Hall hedging shrubs and weeding. They painted the pump house inside Calypso's water treatment plant, cleaned up a park for the Town of Faison, removed debris from a drainage ditch for the Town of Wallace and painted fire hydrants for the Town of Richlands.

"Inmates across the state are spending their time more productively by helping these small communities and government agencies with oftentimes distasteful tasks," Freeman said.