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Prison work crews
Transitional work program looks to expand opportunities

01/18/18
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Thanks to a six-man work crew from the New Hampshire Department of Corrections Transitional Work Center, fire hydrants in Concord were cleared of snow after the recent heavy storms. In recent years, work crews like these have seen an increase in similar jobs that benefit municipalities and nonprofit organizations.

Kim MacKay, the director of Community Corrections and Programs at the New Hampshire DOC, said this year work crews have cleared out about 85 fire hydrants in Concord. They’ve been called periodically by the city to clear hydrants in recent years but this year has been a lot more regular.
“We’re doing it more frequently and we’re doing more,” MacKay said.
The work can be difficult, MacKay said, but she said it’s rewarding as it helps first responders, improves community safety and subsequently instills a sense of community.
The workers are part of the minimum-security halfway house called the Transitional Work Center and they are supervised by a corrections officer who works with them.
“It takes a special person who is willing to go out and stand in 10-degree weather, shoveling all day with the clients to clear the hydrants,” MacKay said.
Workers generally earn $2 to $3 per day.
“That’s a nominal pay, but I think what they get out of it is a sense of paying back to the community. They take pride in what they’re doing. And we really thank them and make sure that they know that the community appreciates this,” MacKay said.
Traditionally, work crews have done work projects in prison facilities or DOC offices. Over the years, they were given opportunities to work on Department of Transportation jobs like highway cleanup and municipalities like Concord reached out for various other projects. 
The crews recently have begun clearing snow from the sidewalks on the Interstate 393 bridge in Concord, MacKay said.
Most recently, MacKay has been working to connect prison work crews with local nonprofits.
“The goal of that program is really to start having the clients come out from the prison and work in the community. So they go out on work crews that are supervised by staff, or a nonprofit or municipality can come to an orientation and they can come and pick up the work crews,” MacKay said.
Lately they’ve done painting projects for Concord Christian Academy during its off season and helped animal rescue organizations with things like repairing horse fences or bathing puppies. 
“One of my favorite things is, when we first started working with the animal rescue, they would come back and we would have these people who have a lot of criminal experience or history and they were so proud and they were so happy and [saying], ‘We gave puppy baths’ … and these are these big guys that are doing the puppy baths and they were really proud of the work they were doing,” MacKay said.
They’ve also done some work to get Camp Spaulding ready for campers by cleaning away tree branches and setting up bunks. She hopes more organizations will reach out asking for short-term or long-term projects.
“We are always looking in the community to expand on opportunities for them [and] have more work crews options for them,” MacKay said.
For nonprofit organizations or municipalities looking to commission the Transitional Work Center crews for a project, contact Capt. Justin Jardine at 271-1924. 





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