The Arkansas Leader continues to pursue related angles to the story it uncovered about a convicted rapist/killer working on a prison labor detail at a middle school in Cabot. Other schools are using prison labor, too, the Leader reports.
Cabot officials have banned prison labor as a result. The Arkansas Board of Correction voted Monday to end a 30-year-old policy that allowed killers to work in schools.
Prison industries install furniture and equipment all over Arkansas — $8 million worth this year. The Leader said:
Last school year, ACI sent inmates to 68 schools around the state, including the Pulaski County Special School District, Lonoke Middle School and the Arkansas School for the Blind.
Just last month, the North Little Rock School District used prison labor along with more than 40 other districts.
The Carlisle and Beebe school districts were among the districts we contacted this week. They said they are not using prison labor.
PCSSD and Lonoke apparently have stopped using inmates in their schools.
Prisoners also work at the Capitol, Governor’s Mansion and prison installations, generally under supervision of armed guards. Sexual offenders are not supposed to be detailed to schools, though it happened in Cabot.
Lonoke Prosecutor Chuck Graham said he opposed felons in the school regardless of offense. He particularly objects that those convicted of violent felonies, if not murder, are still eligible.
Schools have liked to keep the practice quiet. And prison furniture is often available for low cost, given the low-cost labor.
The Leader quotes former legislator Bobby Glover as being unhappy about the disclosures. I doubt this issue will go away quickly and quietly.