By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Keith Gray, Superintendent of the Belknap County Department of Corrections, may offer inmates furloughs to spend holidays with their families in an effort to encourage them to improve their performance while working in the county complex, especially the kitchen.
Gray, together with Carolee Sliker, the dietary manager, told the Belknap County Commissioners this week that while women work well in the laundry, men in the kitchen have been a recurrent source of problems.
Inmates working in the kitchen and laundry earn $3 per day, paid in the form of a credit they can apply while incarcerated and redeemed for cash if they have a balance when they are released. Last year, inmates altogether earned $2,808.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that despite the compensation, the performance of inmates working in the kitchen has not significantly improved, but remains a source of persistent problems.
In the laundry, three inmates work alongside three employees. But, in the kitchen one employee oversees and supervises the work of three or four inmates. Sliker said that "It's lots of small petty stuff," but has also led to broken dishes and damaged equipment. As a result, she noted there has been a constant turnover and frequent retraining of inmates, which places undue demands and pressures on the kitchen personnel who must manage them.
When Gray suggested discontinuing payment to inmates working in the kitchen, Commissioner David DeVoy, who chairs the commission, stressed the importance of rewarding good behavior. Gray said that furloughs, particularly for significant holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, have proved effective incentives in other correctional facilities and indicated he would consider introducing a program at the county jail.
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