(10/18/2007)
A few Calhoun old-timers will remember inmates working along the county roads or completing projects which required the knapping of rock into the red clay.

Gov. Joe Manchin has just signed an executive order that will allow a repeat of history.

It has been over 50 years since such an initiative was in place, reminiscent of the old prison road camps with the repairing or building of highways.

If the program moves ahead, it won't be unusual for motorists to see a group of jail or prison inmates cleaning up litter or whacking down high brush along the state's highways, according to Justin Anderson of the Charleston Daily Mail.

Manchin says about 200 prison and jail inmates are expected to take part in clean-up projects in the state's 10 highway districts.

The guarded inmates will be clad in khakis and wearing orange vests that have "DOC", Division of Corrections, on the back.

Some states have gone back to the old "chain-gang" arrangement. But West Virginia has no plans to, says Jim Rubenstein, state corrections commissioner.

Many of the old road camps operated on the "honor system."

Anderson wrote that a Daily Mail article from 1931 reported that in one Braxton County camp, trouble was virtually nonexistent.

A guard at the camp didn't even carry his revolver around with him, the article said. Both the gun and the guard's billy-club were back at the office covered with dust.

Anderson reported about 731 inmates were working at seven road camps in 1931.

The executive order is expected to boost the state's REAP program.


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