The Arizona State Prison Complex Douglas inmate workers learn new skills while they give back to the community in a positive way.
Prisoners pay out of money earned on work details. Their efforts raise between $5,000-$10,000 a year, which goes to organizations in Douglas and surrounding areas.
Douglas work crews are sent out daily within the local and surrounding communities for community betterment and beautification projects. Along with working off complex grounds, many inmate crews are assigned to work within the complex perimeter.
“Inmates are carefully screened before being appointed to the work crew,” Warden Antonio Baca said. “They volunteer to do it and those that do, love it. It’s a great way for them to get out of the facility and do some honest work."
With a pay rate of five to 50 cents an hour, members of the work crew paint, do building maintenance, landscape, and perform services for non-profit organizations.
In conjunction with the City of Douglas they have helped build the Aquatic Center, Library, the cleaned out the old train station which is now the Douglas Police Department. They also gutted the old PD before the construction crew came in to make it the Douglas Government building.
The use of inmate labor has saved the surrounding communities more than two million dollars in labor costs annually. This monetary savings is large; however, it is not as important as the image of the inmates giving back to the community.
“People acknowledge the work we do and they appreciate it” David, an inmate in the Gila Unit said.
They not only work in town and surrounding areas, the Egger Unit houses the Wildlife Fire Crew.
“They are out there side by side fighting fires with firemen,” Baca said. “They work long hours and do a very good job.”
There are 2100 inmates housed in the Douglas prison, approximately 50 to 60 percent participate in prison fundraisers.
They contribute to the Torch Run, House of Hope, Toys for Tots and this year they raised over a $1000 for school supplies that were given to local schools.
In May they raised over $2,000 and donated it to the Steele Children’s Research Center and the University of Arizona Foundation.
In June the Mohave Unit raised $2,457 and donated the money to the House of Hope. They contribute to the House of Hope about three to four times a year.
“Most of us are convict’s we’re here because we made an error in judgment; a lapse in judgment,” Jason a Gila Unit inmate said. “But for the most part we are fathers. We all have children. We know just as much as anyone that kids need help out there.”
The work crews not only provide funds for the inmates but it also teaches them a skill that they may use once they are released.
Work crews and fundraisers allow inmates to make amends for their crimes. As well as provide assistance to non-profit organizations and children, while at the same time generating a positive impact towards public awareness throughout Cochise County.
“This ties us to a community, I’m going to be in this institution for another three years and this ties me to Douglas,” Jason said. “It’s a good feeling to help out a little bit. We knew that we were doing it because there are people who need help and that was a big factor on why we do these fundraisers.”