Nearly 500 prison inmates on work release are employed by the Missouri Transportation Department – saving MODOT about $20 million annually. Some minimum security offenders who are nearing their release can apply for work release with MODOT for jobs like mowing and litter removal along roadways. Transportation Department director Patrick McKenna tells Missourinet that the program is helpful, especially during the department’s current tight budget times.
“It’s a significant savings. When we compare salary and benefit costs of our crews to the rates that are paid in through this program and the labor that is performed, that’s where we get to those numbers,” says McKenna. “The program has become something that we rely. It certainly benefits the Department of Transportation, the traveling public and the taxpayer here in Missouri by virtue of the fact that some of the vegetation and the removal programs that we have are done on a more frequent basis than our budget would enable.”
McKenna says the program also benefits the Department of Corrections and the inmates.
“The intention of the program, it allows offenders nearing their release time some valuable job training,” says McKenna.
In an earlier Missourinet story, Department of Corrections director George Lombardi had a similar sentiment by saying the program instills great work ethic, pride, self-esteem and compassion in offenders.
McKenna says the program is not intended to allow prisoners to compete with work done by other MODOT staff. He says much of the work release staffing is seasonal.
The workers are spread out among about 81 crews on a given work day in each of the department’s seven districts. They are supervised by civilian employees.
Prisoners not allowed within the program include those convicted of arson, first-degree assault, rape, attempted sexual assault, sodomy, attempted sodomy, kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first and second degree murder, conspiracy to commit any of these offenses, and prison rule violations.