Strict rules for inmates working at Florence Unified School District

Inmates working at schools? The idea may seem far-fetched at first, but not in Florence.

A select group of inmates is working for the Florence Unified School District under strict supervision, which is saving the district a lot of money.

We received an e-mail from a viewer who said there are inmates working at schools in FUSD. The person was concerned and wanted to make sure students were safe. She asked us to look into it, so we did.

The sign says "Inmate Work Crew on Premises." It's located at the school bus barn, which is near the state prison. Inmates work here and also on the grounds of district schools, including Florence High School. But there are tight regulations and strict supervision of the inmates.

"The way the program is, they go through a screening process and give us the number they have, I would say 10 to 20 on any given day," said FUSD's Richard Franco.

Inmates work on maintenance and landscaping, at times when students are not present. They make $0.50 per hour -- a huge savings for the district.

"Including insurance and benefits cost $30,000 to $40,000 to hire full time maintenance person. With these individuals, we are talking 50 cents an hour, hundreds of dollars over the term of a bunch of projects," explained Franco.

A student we spoke to didn't have a problem with the program.

"I mean, not if we are not there and they are probably trustees, so if they are able to work like that," said Jason Cutter.

FUSD says the program has been in operation since 2002 with no problems.