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Flagler Jail Sends ‘Inmate Work Crew’ Around Town, and Gets Paid GED Instructor

| August 29, 2018

Pearl Brazelton in a video still teaching her new students at the Flagler County jail. (FCSO)

Pearl Brazelton in a video still teaching her new students at the Flagler County jail. (FCSO)

A select few inmates at the Flagler County jail will be assigned to work crews and carry out work on public property around the county, and many more inmates will get access to a GED instructor permanently assigned to the county jail, thanks to a partnership between the Sheriff’s Office and the Flagler County school district.

Sheriff Rick Staly’s office announced the two initiatives Tuesday and Wednesday, a continuation of related efforts to provide rehabilitative alternatives to inmates while they’re at the jail, and to reduce recidivism. The initiatives are the brainchild of Becky Quintieri, whom Staly shifted from directing the jail to overseeing all jail rehabilitative programs when he took office, a position she describes as her “passion.”

The GED program is part of the relatively newly created program called Stride, an acronym for “Skills, Transitional Support, Respect, Integrity, Direction and Employment.” The program is a collection of services, from addiction-recovery programs to domestic violence classes and GED classes, offered many inmates who qualify. Until now, GED classes were offered by volunteers. The jail had not produced any GED graduates in the past two years.

That’s expected to change with the arrival of Pearl Brazelton, an instructor at the school district-funded Flagler Technical Institute with some 25 years’ teaching experience in elementary, adult, special education and other fields.

According to a district spokesman, she will be paid $500 a week through a Florida Department of Education Adult Education and Family Literacy grant, enabling her to work up to 29.5 hours a week on the GED program at the jail. It will be the second time she has taught inmates.

“People that I’m teaching,” Brazelton said in a brief video interview posted by the Sheriff’s Office, “are my students, regardless of where they are, where they come from, who they are or whatever, I come in here with the passion of wanting to teach them and help them to learn, how to be better to themselves, so that they can learn what they need in life, and also so that they can come back into our society as productive citizens.”

“When presented with this opportunity to help provide classes for those in the jail seeking their G.E.D., Pearl Brazelton was the perfect fit,” Jason Wheeler, the school district’s chief spokesman, said. “She has a passion for helping others reach their full educational potential. Plus, she has previous experience working in a correctional institution setting. We applaud Sheriff Staly for launching his STRIDE initiative and are proud to offer what help we can.”

jail work crews

Coming to a green patch near you.

Inmates of whatever classification may take GED classes if they are not in segregation for disciplinary, mental health or medical issues. Most inmates at the county jail are held there for misdemeanors, and most are awaiting adjudication. That is, they’re in their pre-trial phase.

“On average, inmates who participated in correctional education programs had 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than inmates who did not,” according to a 2013 Rand study. ” the odds of obtaining employment post-release among inmates who participated in correctional education (either academic or vocational programs) was 13 percent higher than the odds for those who had not participated.” The study, which examined data from both prisons and jails, also found that the cost of educating inmates led to a lowering of jail and prison costs overall because by reducing recidivism, it lessened the burden on prisons and jails while enabling ex-inmates to work, earn pay–and pay taxes.

“I can’t say enough about the efforts that have been made by Director Quintieri and our jail personnel along with our committed community partners who have worked with us to make our STRIDE program possible,” Staly said, noting how the GED program is one more way to “help inmates turn their life around” and not return to jail.

The inmate-crew program was long promised by Staly, and is now reality. The first crew consists of seven inmates, who all volunteered for the jobs, reportedly with enthusiasm. All have been sentenced (the jail may not use inmates who are awaiting trial). They are all non-violent offenders sentenced to county time of 364 days or less. That can be for drunk driving, drug offenses, writing a bad check, violating probation and the like. They’ll be working in black and white striped uniforms.

The Inmate Work Crew, according to a sheriff’s release, will be responsible for cutting grass, pulling weeds, trimming hedges and other landscaping projects but only on public property. The law forbids the use of prison or jail labor on private property, a reflection of historic abuses in the notorious days of chain gangs. Flagler’s work crew will work on the jail grounds, in the Flagler County Fire Rescue fire tower training area off Justice Lane near the jail, at the Sheriff’s Operations Center (presumably far enough from it that they won’t breathe its emanations), at the Flagler County Storage Yard, the Eagle Lake Water Plant, the Fire Flight Airport Hangar complex at the county airport, and at Old Dixie Park.

Inmates will not be paid, an issue that stirs debate among advocates for prisoners, on both sides of the issue: some call it prison slavery and a throw-back to a past lurid with abuse of prison labor, especially in the Jim Crow era, or see it as an incentive to mass-incarceration. But some embrace it.

“I couldn’t wait to head to work in the kitchen of the maximum-security women’s prison in Connecticut where I did six years for identity theft and related crimes,” Chandra Bozelko, author of the blog Prison Diaries, wrote in the Los Angeles Times last October. “I was paid 75 cents to $1.75 a day to make and serve a lot of casserole. Yet I consider most of the criticism lobbed at prison labor — that it’s a form of slavery, a capitalist horror show — unfair, and even counterproductive in the effort to reform the justice system.”

She added: “My prison job made me feel like I was fulfilling my existential duty to society: I was contributing. It doesn’t surprise me that prison work assignments are credited with reducing recidivism. Any change for good that happened within me while I was incarcerated grew out of my job. If I feel that way about my time making chicken a la king, an inmate who’s saving lives fighting fires must feel it 10 times over.”

The Sheriff’s Office lists three benefits to the program: “First, inmates working on these projects will gain experience that may assist them in seeking employment upon release with a landscaping company; second, inmate labor will save county tax dollars that would normally be spent on landscaping services; and, third, the inmates are giving back to the community for violating the law.”

All inmates have received training on how to operate the equipment and work and behavior expectations while assigned to the work crew. They will always be under the surveillance of a detention deputy assigned to the crew.

“The Inmate Work Crew is beneficial for everyone involved,” Staly said. “The inmate labor saves tax dollars and provides work experience for the inmates,” reiterating the benefit of reducing recidivism. “We do not want offenders to keep coming back. The Inmate Workforce and our STRIDE programs are used to rehabilitate offenders and encourage them to turn their lives around and provide them the tools to be successful when released from jail.”

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24 Responses for “Flagler Jail Sends ‘Inmate Work Crew’ Around Town, and Gets Paid GED Instructor”

  1. Really says:

    Thats a Program that every one is behind. Its never too late Good Luck

  2. Dave says:

    The inmates wont get paid!? Wow ,as if the trustees aren’t already getting completely ripped off , now they have a crew that wont get paid at all!? Great Job Flagler County, make sure you lock up the strong young ones that can do more of your labor for free smh it’s a shame that the GED story is being overshadowed buy this nonsense.

  3. KathieLee4 says:

    I’m sorry they should be paid something so it can be put on their account and maybe buy themself something .. Would anyone work for free ??

  4. beachcomberT says:

    The work program is long overdue but it should offer some sort of a wage — perhaps $1 an hour, which would still be less than half the Florida minimum wage for tipped workers such as waiters/waitresses. After all, doing manual labor in the hot Florida sun, wearing heavy prison uniforms, is not a cakewalk. Inmates deserve an incentive for leaving their air-conditioned cells.

  5. Lazaruis says:

    This lady sound great .
    I wish the teachers at fpc would be as passionate and instructive as her .

  6. Mary Fusco says:

    kathyLee, why should they get paid? They are only paying back what the state is paying out to feed, clothe and house them. Maybe it will deter some from committing crimes if they have to do manual labor in return for their their care.

  7. snapperhead says:

    noun: volunteer; plural noun: volunteers

    a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.

    If they agree to do this voluntarily to learn some skills, feel a degree of freedom again by not being locked up all day, then I see it as a win-win for both the inmates and taxpayers. If they were paid a small sum I think more than 7 would be participating. It’s a step in the right direction..I would agree they be paid something if they are forced to participate.

  8. oldtimer says:

    how about the money paid them go to restitution for their crimes and victims? Anyone remember the victims?

  9. Lnzc says:

    Make them pay room and board

  10. Jason B says:

    I guess slave labor is back in fashion, that should make the local conservatives happy.

  11. woody says:

    Get paid?3 square meals and free medical?PLEASE.

  12. Pitching Wedge says:

    “The first crew consists of seven inmates, who all volunteered for the jobs, reportedly with enthusiasm.”

    These people volunteered knowing they would not be paid. Just getting out in the fresh air is most likely enough of an incentive for them. I know it would be for me if I was incarcerated.

  13. atilla says:

    It’ll be interesting how many are willing to work let alone without pay. One of the reasons they’re there is because they would rather rob and steal then work.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Mary Fusco , yes they should get paid do you or did you work for free ??? Most states do pay them … Slave labor !!!!

  15. Born and Raised Here says:

    I remember the Chain Gangs, here in the County that would hand sickle our swales, and Mama would have me take a Pitcher of Lemonade out to them.

  16. Mary Fusco says:

    Jason B. How is this slave labor? Who is paying to feed clothe and house these inmates because they are a menace to society? Perhaps those who regularly do these type of manual jobs for meager pay and pay taxes. I am one of the local conservatives. I also worked 50 years before I retired and did not suck the system dry. I left the funds for the deadbeats.

  17. Concerned Citizen says:

    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. They are volunteering to work.

    Why should I support someone to lay around in an air conditioned cell. And eat 3 meals a day and get medical care when needed.

    Here’s a thought sure pay them a wage and have it go to their restitution. You know the money that goes to the VICTIM of their crime.

    Why are people feeling sorry for someone who put themselves in that position willingly. I prefer to feel sorry for the victims.

  18. KathieLee4 says:

    To the people who say ” the inmates get free room and board and medical ” wrong they must pay $ 2.00 a day to stay at the Flagler jail and must pay for their medical .. If they got paid even a little they could pay for their room.. I know people will say it’s only 2.00 a day but just think when they receive nothing on their books …..

  19. Dave says:

    For anyone saying they volunteered, of course they did look at the position they are in ,not much of a choice there. Especially since this jail has a history of not providing proper rec time to the inmates. Also it is not free to be locked up. They charge you daily for room and board already. I believe more pay jobs are needed to give everyone the opportunity to not rack up a bill. They are already paying with their time, the last thing they need is a bill for their stay.

  20. Knows says:

    A work place in another county I know of does this. The prisoners volunteer because they want time out of the jail so it’s a win win situation.

  21. Mary Fusco says:

    Dave, exactly who put these revered inmates in the position they are in? You know how you get all the rec time you need? STAY THE HELL OUT OF JAIL. DO NOT STEAL, TERRORIZE, RAPE, SELL DRUGS, ETC. ETC. You say “they are already paying with their time”. There really must be something wrong with you. What about their victims? Let’s talk when one of these nice guys who don’t get enough rec time break into your house, rape your wife, kill your dog and steal everything you own. Liberal thinking is very frightening to me.

  22. Anonymous says:

    There are getting paid by being allowed to leave the jail and not be confined all day. These are trustees who are minimal risk and they have volunteered for the spot.

  23. Concerned Citizen says:

    Here’s a thought.

    Can we stop feeling sorry for the inmates who put themselves in this position. I am sure there is quite possibly a select few who might honestly not belong there. However most of these inmates CHOSE to rob and beat on someone or sell drugs. Quite possibly to our kids.

    Again I have no problem with them receiving some sort of wage. But they shouldn’t get to benefit from it. Establish a wage then set up a fund so that it goes towards their restitution.

    It’s not our job to provide them with commissary products. And I’m sorry but 2.00 for medical expenses is quite reasonable. Considering when I had the flu last year and had to pay more than 500 dollars worth of expenses to get back on my feet so I could return to work.

    Let them pay for their incarceration expenses and have some of the funds go to the VICTIMS. It grows tiresome “having to feel sorry” for people who made poor choices and are now incarcerated.

  24. Dave says:

    Trustees are to get paid, let’s also keep in mind ,not everyone who is in jail is guilty. And Mary Fusco I understand completely how hard it must be to love like a Christian ,unconditionally, with out judgement. Jesus did it many years ago. I think we can find a way to honor his memory by trying to love like him and try to cast out all hate.

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