FEBRUARY 13, 1996

KINSTON - A bus loaded with 35 minimum custody inmates leaves Greene Correctional Center at 7:30 Monday through Friday mornings taking the men to their jobs working for the city of Kinston.

"We were looking for a way to save money and get more things done,"said Ervin Keaton, Kinston's assistant city manager. "We've accomplished both."

The city signed a labor contract agreement with the prison last July. Keaton looked at the impact of that agreement after the first 78 days and found the city had received services valued at about $73,000. It costs the city one dollar per inmate each day.

The inmates have painted buildings including the police and fire stations, maintained ditches, kept equipment and vehicles clean, installed traffic signs and cleared weeds. One crew is even building a house.

"We look for inmates who have skills that meet the city's needs," said Bob Aiken, the prison's assistant superintendent. "We also train city staff so they'll know our guidelines for supervising inmates."

The city oversees their inmate workers and provides their transportation between the city and prison. City officials say the inexpensive manpower provides needed laborers that improve the city's appearance and free city employees to work on other duties.

Three inmates working for the city's codes and inspections office have built a two-bedroom home on a city-owned lot. The city plans to sell the home to a needy resident for about $25,000.

"We've put about $6,000 into the construction so far and expect that it will costs about $19,000," Keaton said. "These inmates and our staff built the house from the foundation up."

Greene Correctional Center contracts with eight state and local government agencies to work 132 inmates. The inmates work in Goldsboro, Greenville, Kinston and Wilson.

In North Carolina, 581 inmates work under contract for 29 local governments and 27 state agencies.

"Labor contracts for local government is another way the department can put inmates to work for communities across North Carolina," said Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "We hope more local governments can benefit from this inmate work program."