Paying their dues

Madison’s female inmates
provide valuable city services

Correctional Facility sends out work crews
weekly to do various tasks

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(June 2007) – The Madison Correction Facility is a minimum security facility for low-risk female offenders who are nearing the end of their incarceration and are getting ready to return to their home communities. Most of the offenders at the facility are there because of crimes centered on drug or alcohol abuse.

Women offenders on city work crews

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Women offenders on city work crews
help to clean up debris from flooding
along Madison, Ind.s riverfront.

Each offender is required to hold a full time job, be enrolled in school or a trade program full time or do a combination of both school and work. There are numerous community service and work programs available at the facility that teach valuable job skills at the same time they encourage good citizenship.
Like other correctional facilities in the state, Madison Correction Facility has nine offender crews that go out into the surrounding communities daily. These crews work on projects as assigned by agencies or departments, including two work crews for the City of Madison.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington said the city crews have been a tremendous help and save the city almost $300,000 a year in labor costs. “From the start, the program has been good for our community, provided jobs for area citizens and has been a great rehabilitation and transition program for the offenders.”
Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner J. David Donahue said offender work crews not only provide a valuable service to local communities, but they give offenders the opportunity to give back to the communities.
“It is important to our residents that they pay their debt to society, not only by doing their incarceration time. The work they do on the work crews in addition to their service projects help them to learn the value of hard work, teach important job skills and prepare them to return to their home communities as law abiding citizens that will contribute to society.”
Huntington said there has never been an issue with any of the offenders and the public, which he believes “speaks well” for the management at the correctional facility.
Madison’s city crews started in 1995 when the facility housed low-risk male offenders. Huntington that said at first the men started out mowing, but it soon became apparent that many of them were trained tradesmen, and the city started using them for more jobs. “We got a tremendous amount of work done by these men, and they were happy to do it,” he said.
He had tremendous praise for men who worked on the crews. “During the 1997 flood, the male offenders worked tirelessly alongside the public to fill sandbags to help staunch the damage to riverfront property.”
In 2004 the correctional facility switched over to house adult female offenders. “We weren’t sure how that was going to work out, but these women can certainly hold their own,” said Huntington.
Because the program has been so successful, there are now two city crews of six to eight offenders each. Every morning at 7, except in severe weather conditions, the women head out to put in a full day of labor for the city.
Rodger McKinley, until recently the acting superintendent at the Madison Correctional Facility, said the work the Madison city crews do, which often involves heavy manual labor, is an exciting opportunity for the offenders. He said they do more than grass trimming and picking up garbage on the sides of the city streets. They assist in grounds maintenance of the city parks and golf courses, which often involves heavy lifting to remove drift work. “This builds valuable job skills and positive self-esteem. They are very proud of their work.”

correctional facility educational opportunities

Photo by Konnie McCollum

G.E.D. classes and college courses are
among the educational opportunities
available at the correctional facility.

Doug Vest, a former corrections officer who was hired by the city to supervise one of the crews, heads the crew that can be seen working down along the river or cleaning City Hall and the Senior Citizens Center. He said the women on his crew enjoy being outside and love to see the results of their work.
During the Madison Ribberfest, Madison Regatta and the Madison Chautauqua festivals, his crew sets up the fencing and other prep work and then helps clean up the trash afterward.
During recent warm weather, his crew cleaned up and helped plant trees on the city’s golf course.
On a cold, rainy day in March, the women were cheerfully working along the riverfront cleaning up heavy debris brought on by flooding. Wearing mud-covered rain gear and dragging huge bags of trash up a hill to a waiting flatbed trailer, they were excited to talk about the community service work they do for the city.
Mary Statzer, 41, has a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University and worked for years in an office doing accounting work. A mother of three and a grandmother of seven, she said she is happy to be on a city crew.
“I look at this as an educational aerobics workout,î she said. She has learned to use the large mowers, chain saws, chippers and other landscaping equipment. She said she looks back at the work the crew finishes with a sense of pride. While it also helps her pass the 3 1/2 years she has left on her sentence for drug dealing, she said, “It makes me feel good working for the community.”
Another crew member, Amy Ravellette, 33, agreed that is feels great to be outdoors and the work helps pass the time. Incarcerated for attempted robbery, she said she has learned a lot about hard work. She also likes the health benefits the work provides. “I plan to use the skills I have learned working on the city crew to get into a laborer’s union when I go home,” she said. She was amazed at how kind the public has been to them. “People come up and tell us how they appreciate us, which makes us feel good,” she said.
Cori Frost, 41, said the work makes her feel good both physically and spiritually. Frost has just a few days left on her 19-month sentence for forgery. She had been incarcerated previously for a drug addiction problem, but she said this time she just finished a program called “Clean Lifestyle Is Freedom Forever” that has definitely helped her get back on track.
“I wish I would have known about this program and the ‘Thinking for a Change Program’ before because I wouldn’t be here right now,” she said.
The offenders assigned to the facility have less than four years to serve before they are released, and they are provided education and counseling programs, including literacy, GED, college courses through Oakland University, substance abuse counseling and transition education.

courtyard wall

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Several women painted on the wall of
the courtyard during their free time.

Public Information Officer Jennifer Saroka said everything the women do at the facility helps contribute to the community and pay their debt to society. Many of the jobs at the facility are done by the offenders, including sanitation and housekeeping, maintenance, kitchen and laundry duties, warehouse stocking and inventory. She said women offenders work alongside paid employees in many situations and learn valuable skills such as electrical work and a variety of construction trades. The offenders are currently helping to build a new cosmetology training center.
The actual facility is well-maintained by the offenders, who can be seen waxing, buffing and scrubbing floors. While some women do their jobs, others are found in various classrooms throughout the facility studying for their GED or taking college classes. In one room, a group of women were busy hand sewing costumes for volunteers at Connor Prairie, a historic site in Indianapolis.
In addition to the city crews, the 345 offenders at the facility are involved in other community projects, including Habitat for Humanity and a facility recreation club that has sewn beautiful quilts. The quilts are on display in the recreation room, and more than 500 hats and scarves are for area school children.
There is also a facility choir, Destiny’s Voices, which performs at area functions and churches.
Saroka said there is always a need for volunteers and mentors at the Madison Correctional Facility. “Volunteers are trained in how to deal with the offenders; no experience is necessary,” she said.
In late April, the correctional facility received a new superintendent, Jan Davis, who will take over management of the facility. She said she was extremely pleased with the work the city crews do and how successful the program is working.
“These work crews really provide a great service to the community, while allowing the offenders to contribute in a positive manner. It promotes a strong worth ethic and job skills that are absolutely essential to a successful release and re-entry into society.
“I’m thinking it should go at the end. I liked what then acting superintendent McKinley had to say about the crews, so I really don’t want to cut that unless we have to.”

• For more information on being a volunteer at the Madison Correctional Facility, call Jennifer Saroka at (812) 265-6154.

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