The Board of Estimates today approved $1,037,418.85 to pay the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide prison inmates to clean up city parks.
Under the arrangement, up to five crews of minimum security and pre-release inmates will “essentially pick up garbage at the parks,” William Vondrasek, interim director of Recreation and Parks, told the board.
The state pays the inmates $2.60 a day, which makes their labor a bargain compared to the minimum wage of $7.35 an hour, Vondrasek said, adding that the program also helps inmates “experience work and get back to the city.”
Most of the funds will go for inmate transportation and security provided by the state. Vondrasek said after the meeting he had no breakdown of those costs.
According to a memo describing the origins of the program, which began in 2006, “The Department of Recreation and Parks has found it necessary to seek alternative means of supplementing its workforce to perform park maintenance.”
At the same time, Gary Maynard, secretary of the state correctional department, has made it a priority to find ways for inmates to work on public projects. Recently, about 40 inmates cleaned up brush and restored the grounds of the historic Mt. Auburn Cemetery in southwest Baltimore.
Minority Businesses Should be Able to Bid
Under a noncompetitive bid accepted by the board today, the city agreed to pay the correctional department $900,000 for the use of inmate cleaning crews dating back to July 2011 and moving forward through next June.
An additional $137,418.85 will be paid to the state for outstanding invoices dating back to 2010.
Arnold M. Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, objected to the expenditures, saying there are many minority companies in Baltimore that would like to bid on the work.
Jolivet also objected to the low wages paid to the inmates, calling the $2.60-a-day sum “unconscionable.”
City Comptroller Joan Pratt objected to the $137,000 back payment to the state, saying she was not sure it was properly vetted, and abstained from voting in favor of the agreement.