They could be called a captive audience of extremely cheap labor. They have no place to rush to at
quitting time, and no reason to pad hours for overtime pay. Instead, the inmates at the Wood County
Justice Center are saving the county thousands of dollars by painting the interior of the jail.
Rather than spend an estimated $80,000 to hire out the painting of the jail, Wood County Sheriff Mark
Wasylyshyn has assigned the job to volunteer inmates. The contracted paint job would have probably cost
even more, since the county would have also had to pay for housing inmates in other jails during the
painting, the sheriff said.
With two-thirds of the work completed, the bill so far has reached $6,800.
Not only is the inmate labor saving the county money, but it’s also giving the prisoners a job during
their sentences at the jail, the sheriff said. An estimated dozen inmates have volunteered for the work.
"The inmates have been happy to do it," Wasylyshyn said. "They basically told us they’d
rather paint than sit around and watch TV."
And the county commissioners are glad the sheriff is looking for ways to cut the jail expenses.
"In these tough economic times, government has to look at ways to be frugal," Wood County
Commissioner Tim Brown said Tuesday after touring the jail and checking out the new coats of paint.
"Our citizens are out there cutting back and saving money," so why shouldn’t county government
do the same, Brown said.
The interior of the jail had not been painted since 1991, when it was first constructed. Since then, the
jail has been temporary home to an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 inmates, the sheriff said. And many don’t
treat the facility gently, he added.
"They’re not always the most gracious guests," he said.
So, nearly every wall, door, railing and trim is being repainted. And since each of the 200 or so doors
is numbered with three digits, some of the painting has been painstaking.
"That’s impressive," Brown said of the skill it took to free-hand the numbers – which saved at
least $1 a piece that it would have cost to buy the 600 or so number decals.
Though all the walls are "buff white," the trim and doors have gotten a splash of color in red,
blue and "sunspot yellow."
The colors were chosen for their researched benefits of relaxing the inmates. And the fresh coats paint
had a secondary benefit for those doing the labor.
"It keeps them busy and keeps them out of trouble," said Sgt. Tom Ferguson, who has led up the
The third benefit is the cost savings.
"The labor is here and they are not charging us by the hour," Wasylyshyn said.
During his term as sheriff, Wasylyshyn has used inmate labor to perform several jobs previously
contracted for at the jail. For example, inmates strip the old sheriff’s cruisers, taking off the law
enforcement markings, they wash windows, collect trash, vacuum, wax vehicles, buff the floors and weed
around the exterior.
"It adds up to serious money," he said.
In the future, the sheriff would like the inmates to grow a vegetable garden to help produce food for the
jail, and possibly start a tree farm to help supply county government with young trees.
"If it doesn’t happen this year, it definitely will happen next year," Wasylyshyn said of the
HERE TO VIEW THE PHOTO BLOG