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The Villages
Monday, July 26, 2021

Wildwood to pay $57,000 for prison labor for city’s landscaping

Wildwood officials hope prison inmates can help with the city’s vast responsibilities for mowing and landscaping.

Mayor Ed Wolf said 32 employees now are assigned to these tasks, which range from grooming the spacious Millennium Park to the small city-owned cemetery.

Commissioners approved a three-year renewable contract Monday with the Florida Department of Corrections to provide the city with a work squad of up to 10 inmates under guard supervision.

Annual cost to the city is about $57,000 of which $54,000 is for the guard’s salary. An additional training cost of $2,225 also will be assessed in the first year.

Public works director Jeremy Hockenbury will manage the contract for the city while clerk/finance director Cassandra Smith will handle payments.

Wildwood will provide communications equipment such as vehicle radios, hand-held radios and cellular phones tuned to transmit on the department’s frequency. The equipment will be returned to the city at the end of the contract.

“It is the intent of this contract that the work squad maintains communication with the institution at all times,” the contract reads.

Private contractors employed by the city may not use the inmates as part of their labor force. Wildwood is responsible for acquiring any licenses or permits needed to perform the work.

City Manager Jason McHugh said Wildwood also is working to become certified with the corrections department to operate inmate work squads without guard supervision.

Florida is among a handful of states, mostly in the South, that use unpaid prison labor to assist local governments and non-profit organizations.

About 3,500 inmates statewide are assigned duties such as landscaping, construction, building maintenance, sewage treatment and trash collection.

Inmates also are assigned to work on road crews with the Florida Department of Transportation, which used about $67 million worth of prison labor over five years ending in 2019, according to estimates.

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