Carroll County Prison Warden Tom Burgess said most inmates will be on their best behavior in order to get a spot on a work gang.
“That is a privilege for every one of them,” he said. “Would you rather sit inside 24 hours a day or go outside?”
Burgess said guards rarely have problems with prisoners when they know their bad behavior could get them taken off a work detail. He said the program could help inmates from returning to incarceration.
“Not only are they getting out of the prison, but they’re learning a skill. If they want to stay out, they have a skill that will help them stay out,” he said.
Prison inmates also have access to a recreation yard and television.
“They do not have Direct TV or a movie channel or anything like that,” Burgess said.
At the Carroll County Jail the amount of privileges an inmate has depends on whether they are in a minimum, medium or maximum security ward.
“Those classifications are based on inmates’ current charge coupled with their past criminal history,” Carroll County Deputy Chief Brad Robinson said.
Inmates can watch television whenever they are out of their cells, Robinson said. Maximum security inmates have three hours out of their cells, medium security inmates have six and minimum security inmates are out of their cells most of the day. When inmates act out of line or abuse their privileges, they can be taken away, Robinson said.
“We have had some issues in the past where inmates disagree on what channels to watch,” he said.
Come March 1 that won’t be much of a problem. Robinson said the television system, which is funded by money from inmates’ commissary accounts, will be changed to further limit what channels are available.
“Inmates’ television stations will be limited to the local channels, the Weather Channel and Fox News,” he said. “Sometimes the other channels cause more disagreements.”
Robinson said television is as much a safety measure for jailors as it is a privilege for inmates.
“It could be considered a privilege, but it is a lot more calm an environment for an inmate to be able to sit there and watch a local television station,” Robinson said. “If you have a child with nothing to do, you’re going to spend a lot more energy making him behave than if you gave him something to do. It does help in the security and safety of the jail.”
Outside of the three hours a day they get out of the their cells, maximum security inmates’ only other privilege is attending worship services. For inmates on a lower level of security, more programs, like Bible study, Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous and GED classes, are available.
“We have tremendous success with the GED class,” Robinson said. “We try to offer some classes the not only directly impact the inmate, but all of the citizens in Carroll County.”
Many inmates also view being selected for a work crew, especially one that leaves the jail, as a privilege.
“The workers, due to security issues, are closely selected to be on an inmate work crew,” Robinson said.
Right now, the county has about 40 inmates that work outside the jail.
“The majority of them do a super job,” Robinson said. “Some them have that devious mind, though.”
The biggest problem jailors have with inmates working off-site is contraband, Robinson said. An inmate caught bringing contraband into the jail, or committing any other offense, is subject to being placed in the disciplinary pod where they have no privileges.
Robinson said a hearing officer listens to accusations against an inmate decides whether or not to sentence that person to disciplinary pod.
“If they misbehave, they are subject to being placed in disciplinary. They do not have the privilege of television, telephones, programs or anything else,” Robinson said. “Even the toughest inmates, after about 24 hours, will be asking to come out.”