Kansas inmates to help in times of disaster

MCPHERSON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Inmates could soon be called upon to help with disaster relief efforts.

The State of Kansas has experienced wildfires, floods and tornadoes in the last year. While many residents are continuing to deal with the aftermath, the McPherson County Sheriff is preparing for the next disaster.

“It’s kind of like insurance, you have it if you need it,” said Sheriff Jerry Montagne.

On Tuesday, the McPherson County Commission signed an agreement with the Ellsworth Correctional Facility to bring in minimum-custody inmates in the event of a critical incident.

“They will come down and help us clean up, do whatever they need to do.” Montagne said.

There are rules on what the inmates can and cannot do while working. According to an Ellsworth Correctional Facility spokesperson, the inmates must be supervised at all times. Sheriff Montagne said the safety of McPherson County residents is his number one priority.

“The prison has their own people on it and of course we will be on high alert too. We will have more officers out, so they will be watched. I’d say it’s safe. We have guards all around the place, he said.

The inmates will also not be allowed to work on private property or a place where drugs, alcohol or weapons are available. The correctional facility will be in charge of providing the inmates with meals, transportation and tools. The county will not have to pay for any of the inmates services.

“We try not to think about disasters, but when they happen, it’s nice to have this,” Montagne said. “We can call these guys and they can help us.”

The inmates helping with disaster relief are paid when they’re assigned to work programs. Depending on skill level and behavior, they can make anywhere between 45 cents and about a $1 per day.


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