Men in Green: Inmates provide manpower

Inmates provide manpower for many projects throughout Greene County

By Katherine Mansfield

For the Observer-Reporter
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Members of Greene County Jail’s Inmate Community Crew completed a major renovation at the Center Township fire hall in Rogersville.
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As part of their ongoing service to nonprofit agencies, the Inmate Community Crew cleared brush from behind the Rices Landing Volunteer Fire Department.
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Stripping and waxing floors at Graysville Volunteer Fire Department was one of several jobs completed recently by members of the Inmate Community Crew.
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A major remodeling project at Cornerstone Care in Greensboro began last year and plans are to complete it this year by members of the Inmate Community Crew.

WAYNESBURG – They’re the Men in Green: The manpower behind various community landscaping and building renovations who serve Greene County while they serve their time.

“They wear jackets that say ‘Inmate’ on them. They’re all dressed in neon green,” said Harry Gillispie, warden of Greene County Jail. “There’s no mistaking who they are.”

The uniforms mark them as criminals, but the members of the Inmate Community Crew, which began in 2006, are perpetrators of low-level crimes such as DUIs and other minor offenses. Members are assigned to the crew – composed of five to seven members, depending on inmate availability – by Gillispie or Deputy Warden Susan Haxton – and complete service projects for local non-profit organizations.

The crew offers inmates a constructive outlet – the opportunity to work hard, to complete a project and to make a positive difference in the community.

Since the Inmate Community Crew’s inception, the crew has been responsible for tasks like setting up and taking down tents for nonprofit organizations’ events, and cleaning the Greene County Airport after its annual drag races.

“Nothing is unusual to us,” laughed Gillispie. “We’ve cleared some brush, we’ve put in sidewalks, painted some buildings. We do work for nonprofits such as fire departments, churches, municipalities, sportsman’s clubs – just anything that’s non-profit.”

In 2012, the crew’s projects included removing tree stumps from Wana B Park, weeding Meadowlark field for youth baseball, washing walls at Graysville Presbyterian Church and cleaning First Baptist Church in Waynesburg. The crew also completed renovations to the Center Township fire hall in Rogersville and the Mt. Morris Senior Center.

“Probably our biggest project of 2012, or the one that turned out nicest, was the Center Township project, out last renovation,” said Gillispie.”They did an excellent job.We hung all the drywall and did all the electricity. If you went in there to look at it, you’d think a contractor did it.”

That’s a common theme among the crew’s projects – professionalism. Many of the inmates have skills that are put to good use on the job, said Gillispie, and others pick up a trade while working on site.

“A lot of inmates look back and say, ‘That looks really nice, what we did today,’” said Gillispie. “They’re busy. When they come in at night, they’re tired.”

Hours spent completing crew projects count toward an inmates’ sentenced community service hours, and the crew’s work cuts labor costs for local organizations.

“If you spend $10,000 on materials, you figure you’ll spend $10,000 more on the labor,” explained Gillispie. “We supply the manpower and that helps out some of the smaller organizations.”

The crew will begin this year’s work at Cornerstone Care, where inmates will finish a building project they began last year. Gillispie said that no big projects have yet been scheduled for 2013, but he is looking forward to the crew’s completion of whatever projects come their way.

“It’s a well worthwhile [group],” said Gillispie. “The board of commissioners have been very supportive of this and the prison board has been, too.

It’s a way for the inmates to give back to the community.”

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