In April, work crews from the Daviess County Detention Center resumed sending out inmate work crews to pick up trash and doing mowing along county roads.
For a while, the jail was sending out a community service crew and another group to work along state highways on a daily basis.
But Daviess County Jailer Art Maglinger said Tuesday those daily work crews have been halted, and inmate crews are only working occasionally.
Crews that normally work at county facilities such as the landfill and transfer station have not been able to restart since they were shut down by the pandemic.
The issue, Maglinger said, is that there have been fewer state inmates available at times to man crews that work outside the jail. Also, staffing at the detention center has forced the jail to stop sending out daily work crews, Maglinger said.
“Part of the reason is fewer numbers of (state) inmates,” Maglinger said. Only state inmates considered low-risk can serve on work crews. The prison system greatly reduced its state inmate population in prisons and jails last year, to reduce inmate exposure to COVID-19.
Maglinger said the jail doesn’t always have enough eligible state inmates to both work at the jail and serve on work crews.
Crews working outside the jail are “temporarily suspended at this time,”Maglinger said.
Crews will work out of the jail on a “case by case” basis, he added. “They aren’t doing daily work, because of the number of inmates.”
But crews don’t always go out even when workers available, Maglinger said, because there aren’t always enough deputy jailers on duty to both provide necessary security at the jail and oversee inmate workers.
The jail is competing with both other agencies and the private sector for employees, Maglinger said, adding that retirements have reduced the jail’s staff.
Maglinger said he believes unemployment payments have had a negative effect on the number of people applying to be deputies.
“There is a lot of competition” for workers, Maglinger said.
The crews “were going out almost every day until recently,” Maglinger said.
The decision to cut back on outside crews was made “for public safety,” he said.
Maglinger said he is looking for ways to improve deputy jailer compensation.
“We want to stay competitive enough,” he said.
While the jail may not match the salaries of other agencies or the private sector, Maglinger said he hopes to “stay in range.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse