City agrees to pay state $1M for inmate clean-up crews

The Board of Estimates today approved $1,037,418.85 to pay the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide prison inmates to clean up city parks.

Under the arrangement, up to five crews of minimum security and pre-release inmates will “essentially pick up garbage at the parks,” William Vondrasek, interim director of Recreation and Parks, told the board.

The state pays the inmates $2.60 a day, which makes their labor a bargain compared to the minimum wage of $7.35 an hour, Vondrasek said, adding that the program also helps inmates “experience work and get back to the city.”

Most of the funds will go for inmate transportation and security provided by the state. Vondrasek said after the meeting he had no breakdown of those costs.

According to a memo describing the origins of the program, which began in 2006, “The Department of Recreation and Parks has found it necessary to seek alternative means of supplementing its workforce to perform park maintenance.”

At the same time, Gary Maynard, secretary of  the state correctional department, has made it a priority to find ways for inmates to work on public projects. Recently, about 40 inmates cleaned up brush and restored the grounds of the historic Mt. Auburn Cemetery in southwest Baltimore.

Minority Businesses Should be Able to Bid

Under a noncompetitive bid accepted by the board today, the city agreed to pay the correctional department $900,000 for the use of inmate cleaning crews dating back to July 2011 and moving forward through next June.

An additional $137,418.85 will be paid to the state for outstanding invoices dating back to 2010.

Arnold M. Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, objected to the expenditures, saying there are many minority companies in Baltimore that would like to bid on the work.

Jolivet also objected to the low wages paid to the inmates, calling the $2.60-a-day sum “unconscionable.”

City Comptroller Joan Pratt objected to the $137,000 back payment to the state, saying she was not sure it was properly vetted, and abstained from voting in favor of the agreement.

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  • Baltimoreplaces

    $2.60 a day plus free room, meals, healthcare etc…  Housing inmates is very expensive.  I do not think it is bad that they be required to give a little back to the community. It is always prefered that they don’t hurt others and do the things that lead them prison.

    • Colleendvdsn

      Healthcare? Are you joking? And yes of course the majority of prisoners are there as a result of hurting others.. NOT! 

  • Steve

    Minority business should be able to bid? Seriously? How can they possibly compete with $2.60 a day? This ain’t that kind of contact. What’s wrong with helping inmates assimilate back into society at a minimal cost?



  • p johnson

    Hey I have an idea for some free labor. Maybe the courts that so regularly give probation for all manner of crimes also include community service. Have them out on the streets picking up litter in on their own block and in the alley behind it. 

  • Unellu

    I don’t know about the free rooms but the healthcare in prisons in this country is horrible.  I know diabetics who went to prison on insulin, were switched to oral anti diabetics while in prison, and came out close to death with ravaged kidneys.  These were people put in prison for DUI.  The food in prisons is not fit for consumption.  Hence the free food and free medical care as substitutes for poor wages for work, holds no water. 

    These guys should be paid a minimum wage.  Baltimore may be better than China with regard to prison labor but that is nothing to boast about.  In China, prison labor is a great way to bolster cheap exports and prisons hold numerous dissidents opposed to the hypocrisies of Chinese capitalism.  Baltimore is despicable despite being better.

    Pay these guys a minimum wage.  Many of them are not hardened criminals.  They are there for DUI or for possession of drugs with intent to distribute–often the victims of the war on drugs and the victims of the failed war on poverty.  You will not be restoring any faith in society in these cons, if you disrespect them as humans and you would not have changed their anti social proclivities.. 

  • Dave

    Well, those better be some pretty big crews, because the City could pay approximately 60 people making the minimum wage working full time every weekday to do the same work for $900,000 ($900,000.00/$7.35 per hr./8 hrs. per day/255 working days in 2012).  Can you ask the DOC how big the crews are?

    • PCCP

       pretty sure you are paying for transportation and guard time. and the costs of actually doing cleanup work.

  • Cwals99

    As someone who was at this Board of Estimate meeting I can tell you that the site of a minority contractor fighting for work, given how dispicable the bid was, and being denied was a perfect example of people going to jail because they must commit crime to survive and once in jail they are given jobs working for free.

    This is very troubling as citizens are watching a decay in society.  Hundreds of millions in tax breaks to rich corporations while we denigrate our citizens.

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