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Franklin County Left In The Lurch After Inmate Labor Reduced To Stop Spread Of COVID-19

Before COVID-19, inmate work squads helped maintain Franklin County. Now, that the squads are limited due to safety precautions, county officials are trying to make up for the loss in men.
Before COVID-19, inmate work squads helped maintain Franklin County. Now, that the squads are limited due to safety precautions, county officials are trying to make up for the loss in men.

For the rural community of Franklin County, not having inmate labor is putting a strain on resources. Due to the Coronavirus, the Florida Department of Corrections is limiting how many inmates can join work squads.

Before COVID-19, the Florida Department of Corrections says 77 inmates were assigned to work in Franklin County mowing grass, sorting through recyclables, maintaining parks, and more. Now, to stop the spread of the virus, fewer work squads are sent out and county officials are short on labor.

"It's been very stressful," says Fonda Davis, head of Franklin County's solid waste, animal control, and parks and recreation departments.

Davis says employees are shifting around to different departments to make sure the most pressing work gets done.

"When you move from solid waste to go to parks and rec, your recycling is backing up on you," Davis says. "And then move from parks and rec to come [to] catch up [on] your solid waste recycling, then your parks—there [are] different things still going on that needs to be taken care of."

Road Department Head Howard Nabors explains it's also been rough for him.

"You got seven men trying to keep the whole county up," Nabors says.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, the decision to allow outside inmate work squads is made on a case by case basis. In Franklin County, inmates are starting to come out again to maintain parks.

In recent years, the topic of inmate labor has faced questions and push back.

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