Of the 30,000 inmates in Missouri’s prison system, about 700 of those are in the Department of Corrections work release program. The program has been in existence for at least 30 years.

Director George Lombardi says some of the types of work release jobs that prisoners can do include maintenance, mowing, sandbagging in response to flooding and working at the Governor’s mansion.

Missouri Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi

Missouri Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi

Lombardi says most of the offenders work for the Missouri Department of Transportation. MODOT has about 550 inmates working for the department.

“MODOT could not possibly hire 550 people at regular wages. You would see that your highways and bi-ways would be a lot more littered and undone. Does that save taxpayer money? I’m not sure but it does ensure that the communities are cleaner,” says Lombardi.

About two dozen local governments also have work release help.

“Obviously there’s a benefit to the receiving community. They couldn’t probably afford to get the work done without some of our offenders. All they’re paying is $7.50 a day. That goes to the inmate,” says Lombardi.

Many work release prisoners save some of their money to help them when they leave prison.

Lombardi says the program instills great work ethic, pride, self-esteem and compassion in offenders.

“It really cuts to the core philosophy of our department, which is in addition to the time you have to serve, you have another obligation to help your community if possible. So we present you with opportunities to do that in the form of work release and/or our restorative justice efforts that we have throughout the system,” says Lombardi.

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.

Those on work release are supervised by civilian employees. The supervisors are trained to oversee offenders.