Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 21, 2018

Offenders will be working at West Liberty Foods

Jun 16, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor Mt. Pleasant’s West Liberty Foods plant has entered into an agreement to employ offenders from the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility. The program is set to begin in three or four months, officials said. Initial plans call for West Liberty to employ approximately 50 inmates, but the number eventually could vary between 30 and 100 employees.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


Offenders at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility soon will be employed at West Liberty Foods, Henry County supervisors learned during their meeting Thursday.

Dan Clark, director of Iowa Prison Industries, told the board that West Liberty Foods approached him about employing offenders. “West Liberty Foods has asked us about employing incarcerated offenders. They said they cannot find enough workers.”

Clark said West Liberty is hoping to employ about 50 inmates, but the number could vary between 30 and 100 workers. West Liberty desperately needs employees on its evening and night shifts, he said.

Mt. Pleasant’s Correctional Facility became a minimum-security prison last summer, and Clark said about 70 inmates from the institution are already working for the Iowa Department of Transportation and other government entities. He also noted that similar programs pairing inmates with private industry have been developed at the state’s other minimum security prisons — Newton, Rockwell City and Clarinda.

“It is one of our most effective programs because inmates who work while in prison are less likely to commit another crime when released,” he claimed. “This also helps offenders make a more successful transition into private life.”

Prisoners would be paid the standard West Liberty wage for the job they perform at the plant, Clark said, and would be allowed to keep 20 percent of the earnings. The remaining 80 percent would go to the institution, the state, to pay outstanding restitution, court costs and legal fees.

Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility Warden Jay Nelson said a stringent screening and interview process would be used to choose the offenders for the program. “We would choose people who don’t have any history of violence. …The offenders must meet certain criteria that we feel is appropriate to work outside of prison. Then we can prepare them to work out in society which will benefit them and society.”

Clark said the offenders would be transported by bus to and from the workplace, and West Liberty employees would receive training in handling offenders.

The program will not start immediately, but Clark estimated it could begin in three or four months.

Asked about the possibility of inmates escaping while on the job, Clark said an additional five-year sentence for escape is a significant deterrent.

Anytime Iowa Prison Industries has a program whereby inmates are working in the private sector, the board of supervisors and law enforcement in the county must be notified. That was the reason for Thursday’s meeting between the supervisors, Iowa Prison Industries and West Liberty Foods.

Supervisor Chairman Marc Lindeen said he “is all for the program.” He asked whether it is possible that some of the offenders could remain employed at West Liberty Foods following their release from prison, and Nelson said that was a strong possibility.

“I admire West Liberty for stepping forward,” Lindeen said.

“This is a good opportunity for everybody,” added Mark Eads, plant manager at West Liberty Foods.

Supervisors meet again Tuesday, June 20, at 9 a.m., in the courthouse.


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