From Cell Block to Box Truck

Posted in: I'm a Mover, Mover Stories

Inmates in Indiana Working on Literary Moves

Did you ever see the movie Shawshank Redemption? In it is a scene where Samuel Norton, warden of a prison in Maine, starts using his inmates to work on government building and infrastructure projects. Of course his inmates work for free, meaning he can underbid the competition and win all the juiciest contracts. Then the scoundrel goes ahead and pockets all the cash (until our hero Andy DuFrane…well let’s not spoil it for those who haven’t seen it).

Shawshank was pure fiction. But the same thing is now happening for real in Indiana.

To be fair the details are not exactly the same. Okay they are completely different. But this article in the (Indiana) Daily Journal does make one wonder if there really is a Samuel Norton.

Let’s investigate.

“When the Johnson County Public Library needed to tear out old carpet, move shelves and transport stacks of books from one area of the library to the other, employees weren’t sure how they were going to get it done,” we are told. “When officials looked into hiring a moving company to help with the project, the cost was thousands of dollars…Then they heard about a program that would take care of the manual labor while eliminating the cost…”

Sounds very familiar to anyone who has seen Shawshank.

“Using (inmates) for this project instead of hiring help, it saved taxpayers about $7,000,” library manager Kip Logan said. “It’s great to see. The way I look at it, everyone needs a second chance. And you can see that they’re trying.”

Now before anyone starts calling anyone Warden Norton – and before any wardens or librarians start calling me through their lawyers –

Let’s go over a few important details.

One, the men at work are “nonviolent and non-sexual criminal offenders with sentences no longer than five years” and are near the end of serving their sentences. (The inmates in Shawshank were all in for life – for violent crimes they all routinely denied.)

Also, as we are told, “many of the inmates have trade skills they are learning or already have, such as experience as a plumber or electrician.” (The guys in the movie did grunt work.)

Those who don’t have specialized skills serve in less skilled capacities – but serve all the same, which, in the words of Bryan Dobbs, an administrative assistant at the Edinburgh Correctional Facility who oversees the offenders, “uplifts their spirits and has a lasting positive impact on them.” (Our movie inmates just wanted to get out of those prison walls for a while.)

Dobbs adds that “it’s a really progressive way to save taxpayer money,” echoing closely the sentiments of the fictitious and (presumably) less-scrupulous Warden Norton.
Of course, this is not Utopia. As the article states, “The offenders working on the library project were joined by a group of active Reserve soldiers from the Army’s 417 Quartermaster Company.”

We wonder how this idea might help us when the busy summer season rolls around…


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