Monticello partners with prison for work release

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The Monticello community could soon see some new workers around town. 

The city entered into a 28E agreement with the Anamosa State Penitentiary to utilize inmates on work release in Monticello. 

The idea was actually facilitated by the Cemetery Board. They brought the idea to the city council’s attention, and it has been discussed at a few council meetings in the past. 

The inmates would take on duties within the Public Works and cemetery departments such as mowing and upkeep at Oakwood Cemetery, leaf collection, and debris removal at Baty Disc Golf Course. 

Several city staff took part in a multi-day training in September at the prison to learn more about the work release program. Those who attended included: City Administrator Doug Herman. Police Chief Britt Smith, Public Works Director Nick Kahler, Cemetery Director Dan McDonald, Parks and Rec Director Jacob Oswald, and Public Works employee Zeb Bowser. 

The training also highlighted what the City of Monticello would be responsible for through this program in terms of transportation and supervision. 

“We were told what was allowed and not allowed,” Herman noted. For example, inmates are not allowed use of cellular phone devices while in work release. 

The inmates will be quite visible while on duty, wearing jeans and a shirt that notes that they are from the Anamosa prison. 

Herman said these particular inmates are non-violent offenders. They are well on their way to being released from prison and re-introduced into society. 

“The prison had no problem with this program,” said Herman. In fact, the inmates have been working for the City of Anamosa recently in their streets and water departments. Herman spoke to Anamosa Public Works and they never had an issue with an inmate violating their work release. 

“They’ve shown good behavior, and are nearing the end of their term,” added Herman. 

“Some of these guys have never had a job before. This is an educational opportunity to learn a new skill and work ethic.” 

Chief Smith sent a letter out to Monticello Schools Superintendent Brian Jaeger a couple of weeks ago, informing him and the school board of the city’s intent to utilize inmates across the street from the high school at the cemetery. 

“It is important to remember that many communities in and around correctional institutions utilize the use of work release inmates to facilitate community projects,” noted Smith. 

Herman noted that the inmates would not be on site during high traffic times as people are coming and going from the high school. He expected work to be done between 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

“We anticipate no more than two inmates at one time,” Herman said. 

The city would pick them up from the prison each morning and drop them off after their workday is done. 

“They’re also available to work weekends,” he added. 

While the inmates are on site anywhere within the city, they will be supervised by city staff. 

In his letter, Smith said the city has “implemented some additional safety measures to eliminate any opportunity for inmate/students interaction” while the men are working at Oakwood. 

While there is the potential to have the inmates start working yet this fall, Herman said there’s more of a definite timeline in the spring. 

This program not only helps the prison when it comes to reforming the inmates before they are released, it also helps the city when it comes to hiring additional help. The city would pay the inmates just $6 a day versus a full-time salary ($15 to $20 an hour) and benefits to hire an additional public works or cemetery employee. 

“This gives them the opportunity get out of the facility (prison) and get integrated into the community a bit,” Herman said. 


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