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School system may use inmate labor

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / May 13, 1998

RESERVE – St. John the Baptist Parish Schools may have a gleaming, shinynew look come fall, thanks to the inmates of the parish.

After discussing this possibility at several previous meetings, board members received a report on the status of inmates helping the school system’s maintenance department with many of their summer projects from Interim Maintenance Manager Jessie Oubre. Oubre asked St. JohnSheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Harold Klibert if the inmates in his labor program could paint the exterior and interior of some of the parish’s schools and pressure wash many of the others.

Oubre reported that inmates would be available to the school system’s maintenance department for labor on its summer projects.

Although the labor is free, many board members had qualms about agreeing to this because prisoners will be on the campuses at possibly the same time as students involved in extra-curricular activities that meet during the summer.

“We need to know who is going to be there and who is not,” board member Matthew Ory said. “The public needs to know exactly what kind of peoplewe are talking about.”Board member James Madere agreed. He requested a schedule so clubsponsors wouldn’t plan practices or club meetings at the same time the inmates were on the campuses.

“Before we rush into this project haphazardly, we need to get a timeline,” he said. “And we need to make sure it gets done and is not forgotten.”Although a decision was not made by board members at Thursday’s meeting, other board members hope the inmates will be used on St. John’scampuses this summer.

“Finally, heaven’s above, we are going to make use of this system,” Russ Wise said. “I have been asking for this for a year.”And board member Leroy Mitchell, who has worked with west bank inmates on several occasions, said they do some fantastic work.

“They are good guys who have their problems,” he said. “But they do somefine work. I support the sheriff’s program.”Board members decided to wait to make a decision after getting a schedule worked out with the Sheriff’s Office.

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