Saturday, December 13, 2008
For 97 cents a day -- yes, a day -- John Kemp picks up garbage in Austin.
He calls it great.
The work keeps him busy, occupies his mind, helps him change, he said.
Kemp wouldn't mind if the pay was within sight of minimum wage, of course. But after having been caught with a meth lab, Kemp cannot dictate options. Besides, he's not exactly doing his prison time like they did in Alcatraz.
Kemp, of Evansville, will be at the Henryville Correctional Facility for another couple years. He does not sleep behind bars, is not confined by a fence, will not face the barrel of a guard's gun or a stint in solitary. The bricked state prison looks more like a big-box store, except in a nice neighborhood. The facility overlooks a lake in the far reaches of Clark State Forest.
As prisoner Greg Falconberry put it, "It's as close to the real world as you can get, and still be incarcerated."
Those whose crimes were nonviolent may come to Henryville for relatively short stays before they are released. Kemp and Falconberry, of Madison, are among up to 200 men held there, few of whom prove stupid enough to risk losing visitation rights or added stretches served in a tougher joint.
"Everybody wants to go home here," said prisoner Curt Lucas, of North Vernon.
"It's an invisible fence," Kemp said. "We all know where it's at."
All hold jobs, traditionally state-linked duties such as clearing debris in the forest or picking up litter along highways. At least 30 pitch in regularly at the state's tree nursery in Vallonia. "We couldn't do the job we are trying to do without their help," nursery supervisor Bob Hawkins said.
According to Hawkins, the men harvest millions of seedlings each year without causing much trouble at all. [Mark Godsey]