Inmate hurt while on work release

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Chilton County Jail inmate was seriously injured Sept. 10 while on work release.

The inmate broke his neck—and could be paralyzed—after misusing gymnastics equipment at the Chilton County YMCA while workers were helping set up for an upcoming meet.

Capt. Ken Harmon with the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department said the inmates were supervised and instructed not to use the equipment.

“My guy told them not to be playing on something like that,” Harmon said. “There was a supervisor there, but the transport officer was helping some of the other guys moving stuff. I hate it happened.”

The inmate jumped off a trampoline and into a pit filled with foam but landed on his head, Harmon said.

According to Harmon, surgery had to be performed to fuse four vertebrae back together in the inmate’s neck. Harmon said, last he heard, the inmate was in stable condition, but doctors still didn’t know the long-term impact of the injury.

Sheriff Kevin Davis said the work release program is imperfect but necessary.

“I’ve always said, since the first day I came into office, that I wish we didn’t have work release at all,” Davis said. “There were 212 inmates in the jail [Tuesday] morning. Anytime you have that many inmates, there’s a possibility of something happening.”

Davis said it is also sometimes difficult to provide proper supervision, in the form of corrections officers, for the work release crews.

But the program is needed because it is a source of revenue for the county. Businesses and organizations pay for a jail crew to perform work. Manpower is also frequently volunteered for causes like picking up trash on roadways—and helping the local YMCA.

“We just always have to ask, ‘Is it beneficial for us to use the inmates to move stuff at the YMCA, cut grass at the fairgrounds—our county couldn’t operate if we didn’t do that. My only thing is, if we’re going to use them, we need to have more people to supervise them.”

Officials with the Chilton County YMCA declined comment because the matter is still under investigation.