Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says the city is working to correct problems with using inmates from Dismas Charities’ halfway houses.
Earlier this month, an internal audit showed there was no written contract for using ex-convicts for volunteer in various city departments. The report said the lack of a signed agreement puts the city at risk, and also found that inmates were not consistently signing in at their work assignments and aren’t being properly monitored by supervisors.
Fischer says the partnership with Dismas is a worthy cause that helps rehabilitate inmates, and a corrective action plan is in the works.
“Remember, these folks are in halfway houses and they’re re-integrating into society as well. So that’s part of the issue. But from my perspective what we need is a uniform policy from the city and that’s what you’ll be seeing,” he says.
The Fischer administration has defended the partnership mainly as a cost savings measure to the city, arguing that Dismas workers do jobs for little to no pay that most are unwilling to do. The state’s corrections department houses inmates at Dismas’ various halfway houses, who work for around .62 cents a day.
But as LEO Weekly‘s Joe Sonka reported this month, union leaders continue to raise concerns about safety after learning the continued use of violent offenders without backgroudn checks at city agencies despite previous assurances from the mayor’s office that the practice would stop.
Another troubling statistic is that over a dozen Dismas inmates have either escaped or walked away from their work assignments this year, including one who was working at Fischer’s town hall meetings and another who is still at-large.
Of the eight Dismas inmates with a violent criminal record on the most recent city inventory, three worked for Metro Parks, three at Solid Waste Management, and one at Metro Animal Services. One inmate who worked at the zoo — convicted of arson — escaped Nov. 30 and is still on the loose.
Additionally, such inmates aren’t totally sequestered from the public during their duties, which include setting up public events like the mayor’s “Talk to Greg” town halls. At one such meeting in September at Brandeis Elementary School — during which Fischer addressed violence in the West End — a Dismas inmate convicted of robbery and first-degree burglary escaped. He was apprehended three weeks ago.
Asked about those reports, Fischer said they are exaggerated, and overlook the good service that Dismas provides the city as well as its overall mission.
“My gut reaction is that it’s sensational,” he says. “If it did happen then it’s a fact. But when you take a look at the—I’m sure are thousands and thousands of work days that Dismas has done for the city, and you take a look at individual episodes percentage wise it’s not much. But it’s an issues, and I want to make sure we’re addressing the whole issue citywide.”
Among the mayor’s plans is that the city’s human resources department will run the entire Dismas work-release program.