By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) has proposed hiring an additional employee for the Belknap County Department of Corrections whose primary responsibility would be to oversee inmates who work in the kitchen at the Belknap County Nursing Home.
DeVoy made the proposal at Friday's meeting of Belknap County Commissioners saying that he was "concerned about the path we're being led down to hire more full-time employees to work in the kitchen at the county home."
Last month commissioners approved hiring four part-time workers for the county home kitchen after receiving a report that the use of inmate labor as dishwashers in the kitchen is not working out well.
Carolee Sliker, dietary manager at the nursing home, said at that meeting that a pilot program in which inmates are being paid $3 a day for work in the kitchen has seen "a parade of inmates coming through the kitchen who have behavior issues and do not want to work."
She proposed replacing the inmates who work in the kitchen with her own staff from 4 to 7 p.m. and hiring four part-time dishwashers who would be cross-trained as dietary aides so they could help serves the residents at supper.
She said that hiring the part-timers would cost $40,000 a year, which translates into an additional $20,000 for the rest of this year and that funds would have to be transferred for that purpose. Commissioners approved that proposal.
She also said that s that in the future the county needs to look at replacing other inmates who work in the kitchen with four full-time staff members, which she said would cost $208,000 a year.
But DeVoy says that he thinks that having inmates work in the kitchen is an important part of changing their behavior so that they can learn responsibility and prepare themselves to re-enter the community once their sentences have been served,
"Having a corrections officer there would increase their efficiency and help get better job performance from the inmates," said DeVoy.
Sliker has said that those who do want to work and do a good job are quickly lost as they qualify for work release programs, requiring the cooks to constantly train new inmates, which she said involves paying overtime for the cooks.
She also wrote in her report that "Using inmates in the kitchen is not working. My staff and I are not trained correctional officers and the kitchen is not a rehabilitation center."
DeVoy said that he is determined to see that inmates do work and that a trial program approved earlier this year by commissioners in which inmates who work at county facilities and are paid $3 a day works out.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he thinks that hiring an additional corrections officer to make sure inmates are performing their work correctly in the kitchen "is money well spent."
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