Senator DeGazon pushes for DOE to use Inmate Work Program to help with summer school maintenance
With the start of the 2019-2020 school year around the corner, Sen. Allison DeGazon is pushing for the Department of Education to work in conjunction with the Bureau of Corrections to expedite school summer maintenance.
The Bureau of Corrections for years have used certain nonviolent inmates at the Bureau’s facilities, who can work, for projects throughout the territory as part of their Inmate Work Program. In April, Gov. Albert Bryan announced that inmates have also begun a cleanup and beautification program in association with the VI Waste Management Authority.
Starting in St. Croix, the inmates are collecting trash from the roadside and public areas to beautify our islands and improve the quality of life for Virgin Islanders.
DeGazon reached out to the BOC to ask whether the inmates would take part in summer maintenance this year for the territory’s schools.
Riel Faulkner, Assistant Director for Administration for BOC, said it would be on an as-needed basis based on DOE.
“The Bureau of Corrections' Inmate Work Program has been working -- and will continue to work -- with the Department of Education to provide maintenance and repair to the territory's public schools, on an as needed basis, in preparation for the upcoming school year,” Faulkner said. “Once DOE identifies maintenance projects that can be served by the work program, they contact the Bureau, which makes the necessary arrangements to have inmates perform the tasks under the supervision of correctional officers. “
Following the response from BOC, DeGazon contacted the Department of Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin to ask what their needs were for maintenance and if the schools were on schedule to be ready for the upcoming school year.
“If not, are you utilizing or planning to utilize the inmates on both districts to help in this area? I believe this will help with cost and turnaround time to ensure our facilities are ready for our children, teachers and support staff,” DeGazon said. “If this is not in place, I am calling for a coordinated effort between BOC and DOA to ensure schools are ready.”
The Department of Education has not yet responded with a school readiness update. Schools are expected to begin on Sept. 3.