Inmate labor back in use by county

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 19, 2013

The county’s trustee program is up and running, and inmate labor is once again being utilized by the county, county officials said Wednesday. The work program was temporarily suspended after a suspected meth lab was found at the county yard in October.

In August, Sheriff Dennis Meeks stopped sending out unpaid work-release inmates called “trustees” after Zachery Obrien Chambers, an inmate given “trustee” status and assigned to the Andalusia Police Department, escaped in late August.

Chambers, who was serving a 330-day sentence after being convicted of possession of marijuana, had been a trustee at the APD for less than a week when he executed his escape plan. He was captured three days later and pleaded guilty to escape in October.

Meeks said Wednesday that while the APD’s trustee spot has not been filled, other departments and agencies continue to use the service.

Chairman Bill Godwin also said Wednesday that inmate labor was used by the county for the first time since October after a suspected meth lab was found at the county yard on Hillcrest Drive.

“The inmates went out Tuesday to pick up trash on the side of the roads,” Godwin said. “That program had been suspended since November, but we have lifted it for the trash detail.”

Godwin was unable to comment on the investigation into the suspected lab; however, he did state that inmate labor is not being utilized in the county workshop.