McLean County jailer Chris Ellis announced April 2 that a COVID-19 work plan has been approved for inmates working in the county.

Ellis worked in conjunction with Muhlenberg County Detention Center and the Kentucky State Department of Corrections to come up with a plan.

“I will be allowed to work the inmates a couple of days throughout the week, performing various jobs such as mowing and weed eating county properties and picking up trash alongside our state and county roads per fiscal court approval,” Ellis said. “I’m excited to bring this opportunity back to our county, and appreciate Muhlenberg County Detention Center, jailer Terry Nunley Jr. and the Department of Corrections for allowing me to do so.”

The inmate contract with McLean-Daviess counties ended Dec. 1, 2020 and a new contract with Muhlenberg County was approved on Nov. 12, 2020 during a fiscal court meeting. The contract between McLean-Daviess counties stated that McLean County could house inmates at the Daviess County Detention Center at $30 per inmate.

The new McLean-Muhlenberg contract allows McLean County to house inmates in Muhlenberg for $28, saving the county $2 per inmate.

At the time, the projected savings with the new contract was $9,000.

McLean County accepted bids beginning October 2020. Other bids placed were from counties including Daviess and Webster.

“Working with [Muhlenberg County] has been great in helping me get this plan passed,” Ellis said. “We can provide a service back to our community.”

Ellis said there were several requirements the plan needed to meet by the DOC, including working the inmates in a way where they don’t come into contact with other people, such as a highway department road supervisor or any other supervisor who is not a deputy.

“There are several requirements as far as transportation and decontamination and the housing of the inmates,” he said. “The state requires those working on work crews be housed separate from other inmates in the facility to reduce the risk of bringing COVID-19 into the jails.”

Once inmates have finished their work in McLean County and return to Muhlenberg County, they must go through decontamination where they are allowed to wash up and discard their uniform into a tote and receive a clean one. They will reside in a dorm with a capacity of 19 and will not be allowed to mingle with other inmates.

According to Ellis, the plan is still in the early stages.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, county jails could work state inmates at other county locations such as landfills, transfer stations, animal shelters and Department of Transportation road crews,” he said. “I believe once the pandemic lifts, we’ll be able to utilize those inmates to work in those different locations where it could possibly save the county some money. We wouldn’t have to hire seasonal help.”

Ellis said he is looking for this plan to continue in the long-term.

“Starting out, we have to abide by [the DOC’s] regulations and if an inmate happens to catch COVID-19 while we’re working them, it’s going to shut the plan down and we’ll have to restart,” he said. “The plan has to be approved by the health department and the DOC.”

The plan was approved last week and Ellis said he is looking to start utilizing the plan on April 15 by working the inmates at Myer Creek Park by weed eating and picking limbs up, and eventually getting to the point where the inmates will pick up trash along the roads.

“You’d have your road crews from the road department doing the mowing and the weed eating and picking up trash otherwise,” Ellis said. “It would help the road department out a lot.”

Low-offense state inmates are the only inmates allowed to work in these work crews. They receive a daily payment and it is a credit toward their sentences to work down the received sentence.

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