EL CENTRO — El Centro City Council members approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Imperial County Sheriff's Office during the regular meeting Tuesday, October 6, at City Hall. The MOU calls for the use of inmate labor within city limits.
“The council’s approval was an important step to move forward,” Abraham Campos, director of public works and a city engineer. It was the culmination of a year of negotiations with the Sheriff’s Office but will take some time for its implementation in 2021.
Currently, the City’s public works division has eight crew members that work on equipment and streets, including traffic technicians who service traffic signal lights in El Centro, Brawley, Imperial, other cities along Highway 86.
El Centro’s parks and recreation division has six crew members who help with maintenance and upkeep in city areas. With the additional help from inmate labor, “We get more work done in a lot less time,” said Campos.
With assistance from inmate labor, the beautification of the City can be accomplished through alley cleanups, graffiti removal, trash pickup, removal of vegetation overgrowth, and cleanup of road shoulders.
According to Campos, it has been 5-10 years since the use of inmate labor ceased. The approval of the MOU will alleviate the burden on the City’s work crews and get more accomplished within a shorter time.
“These inmates are folks who are at the end of their prison sentence,” said Campos. They are carefully evaluated and screened by the Sheriff’s Office to allay the fears of the community.
Officers will be on site to monitor the work progress of the inmates. They will be assigned in public areas with low concentration of pedestrians.
Included in the MOU was the use of 10 inmates to work three times a week. Both males and females will work as assigned.
“The inmates were excited to go out and help with cleaning the community,” said Campos. In addition to the beautification of the City, the project also provides an opportunity for inmates to adjust to the community upon their release.
According to Campos, he looks forward to the project to take place in El Centro. He said it will be a big benefit both for the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office and the City of El Centro.