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Wrong Jack Laughlin?

Jack S. Laughlin

Service Division Manager

The Colorado Correctional Industries

HQ Phone:  (303) 321-2200

Email: j***@***.us


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The Colorado Correctional Industries

4999 Oakland Street

Denver, Colorado, 80239

United States

Company Description

We are glad that you are taking the time to learn what Colorado Correctional Industries (CCi) can do for you. Our company is a combination of more than 60 programs, manufacturing goods and providing services to thousands of government and/or non-profit custome...more

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Jack S. Laughlin, Colorado Correctional Industries, Services Sector Manager

Colorado's Wildland Fires Worse in State's History | National Correctional Industries Association

CCi charges $4,500 a day per crew, which is close to half the usual $8,000-$10,000 daily cost of a federal firefighting crew, stated Jack Laughlin, CCi Services Division Manager who oversees the fire team.
They get $6 a day fire pay," Laughlin stated. Inmates also earn an extra day of good time for everyday they fight a fire, so the work can help shorten their sentences. Some of our inmates go on to work in the field after release. One Buena Vista inmate was released to Durango, CO where he attended college and worked as a seasonal firefighter. "Now he is a smoke jumper and a pretty outstanding young man. He took advantage of the program and proved that if you are open to it and receptive to the positive environment, the feel-good impact goes well beyond the job skills," Laughlin said. To Jack Laughlin, CCi Services Division Manager For further information about CCi's SWIFT or Trails/Timber programs, please contact Jack Laughlin at 719-440-2234 or visit our website www.coloradoci.com.


The program is authorized by state statute, Jack Laughlin, service division manager for Colorado Correctional Industries, said.
"It's to create a pool of inmates to respond to disasters, including firefighting," he said. Hundreds of inmates apply for the crews, but Laughlin said only 22-24 are "retained" on a crew. Locally, use of the Buena Vista crew has been requested by the Chaffee County Fire Protection District. The district received a grant to bring a tub grinder to the county later this year to grind slash piles generated by wildfire mitigation projects. Laughlin said the Buena Vista crew will help thin fuels on public and private land. To be eligible for the crew, inmates must be non-violent offenders and cannot be sex offenders. They must be minimum or restrictive minimum security. Crew members must have a high school diploma or a GED, be "report-free" for six months, meaning they have not received disciplinary action, and must waive their parole or community placement until the end of the fire season. "If we're hiring (a crew) we don't want guys going out and having to re-train," Laughlin said. Inmate crews receive Red Card wildland fire training _ the same training all wildland firefighters complete. The inmate fire crew program is a self-sufficient program, not funded by taxpayers. Therefore, people using the crews must pay for the help, but Laughlin said the price is less than for similar commercial crews. For the inmates, being a part of the fire crew can be good experience and is a way to earn "more" money than a typical inmate. "It pays better than most programs," Laughlin said. "They can earn up to $6 a day on a fire. Normal pay for an inmate is 60 cents a day." Most inmates on the crews don't have any previous firefighting experience, although most have some kind of knowledge that helps with mitigation, such as knowing how to use a chainsaw. "By and large, they have no experience with fire, but they're eager to learn," Laughlin said. "They know post-release there is some opportunity (in the field)." He said use of the crew depends on things such as the season and fire conditions. "Our first crew, two years ago, did about 65 days out," Laughlin said. "Once the local firefighting community found out about this program, they're very excited about having this crew here," Laughlin said. Jack Laughlin "When it first started, to me it sounded like a government boondoggle that was pretty far out of the box for corrections," admitted Jack Laughlin, a Correctional Industries manager who heads the program. "I figured it would last a few months and then fizzle out." The first inmate fire crew hit the ground running in the summer of 2002, working out of the Youth Offender System in Pueblo during Colorado's worst fire season ever. The inmate's reputation for top-notch firefighting has helped the program grow to the point where this summer there are three crews of 20-plus inmates each fighting fires out of Canon City, Buena Vista and Rifle. "The staff got really excited and the inmates are thrilled to be out there because it is a culture change for them. They quit being inmates and start being firefighters," Laughlin said. These guys will be out anywhere up to 16 days and when you go four or five days without a shower and sleep on the ground it is very difficult," Laughlin said. Statute requires the inmates be minimum or minimum-restrictive security inmates. Sex offenders or inmates guilty of violent crimes are not accepted. Each inmate is required to have a high school or GED level education, be physically fit and have gone six months without a disciplinary problem. "We want that work. Physically demanding, labor intensive work meets exactly what our goal is," Laughlin said. At $3,000 a day, we cost about half as much as a private crew," Laughlin said. Although inmate firefighting crews are fairly common throughout the Western United States, the Colorado program is one of the few that operates without taxpayer support. "It has to be self-sufficient. It will never be a huge money-maker, but it is self-supporting and we have been able to grow by two crews in two years," Laughlin said. Laughlin is thrilled that after 53 days on assignment last summer, the inmate fire crews saved the state more than $100,000 in firefighting costs. For each day an inmate works on a fire, he is earning day-per-day credit, which shortens sentences and knocks an additional $100,000 off the cost required to feed and house the inmates. We've gotten good or excellent ratings on every fire we've ever been on," Laughlin said. We had 22 guys leave the program in Rifle last year - 16 were paroled or given community placement," Laughlin said. Several have gone on to work on fire mitigation projects, one even got hired by a private wildland fire company. The fire crews don't just work fires, they have found year-round employment in fire mitigation work doing things like forest thinning, chipping of downed wood, even tree planting. Locally, they have done fire mitigation work at Pueblo Mountain Park and also are working on bits and pieces of the Front Range Fuel Treatment program for the Colorado State Forest Service. "Our inmates interact and work in a tough environment extremely well," Laughlin said. "We're proud of them." They also share in other incentives that are awarded based upon their training level and the amount of work completed in any given month, according to Jack Laughlin, Service Manager with CCI. Asked about the number of offenders who went on to work in the field after being released, Laughlin said, "We have received information on over 30 offenders that have done either fire fighting or fuels work." When asked about recidivism rates he told us, "Offenders that have participated in this program must waive placement into either parole or community corrections for at least one fire season. Laughlin says that they've had over 600 offenders participate in the program, including this year's participants, and over 100 additional offenders have participated in their TRAIL program that builds trails and conducts fuel reduction projects. Though it is too early to tell what impact the program will have on recidivism rates, said Jack Laughlin, a service sector manager for Correctional Industries, only two of the original 28 SWIFT participants from Canon City have been sentenced back to the facility. CCI charges $3,000 a day for a fire, which " is significantly less than similarly sized and equipped and typed crews," said Jack Laughlin, service division manager for CCI. "No jerks," Laughlin said. "It's essentially a business run inside the walls of the prison," said Jack Laughlin of Colorado Correctional Industries, who oversees all three inmate crews. Providing firefighters more cheaply, Laughlin argued, saves taxpayer money - about $100,000 in the 2002 fiscal year when compared with an equivalent U.S. Forest Service crew. The inmates are also rewarded by having a day taken off their sentence for every day they're on the fire line. Because the inmates serve shorter sentences, Laughlin said, taxpayers pay less to keep them behind bars, a cost that Laughlin also estimates at $100,000 during fiscal 2002. His felony record will make that difficult but not impossible, Laughlin said. Laughlin said he receives about 200 qualified applications from across the state each year and this year chose only 75. Prisoners can apply from any facility and are transferred to a crew's home prison if accepted. "Still, a lot of people don't know how selective we are, and sometimes they're wary," Laughlin said. Jack Laughlin, who administers the inmate program, but serves as a firefighter when it is deployed, said the blaze was erratic on Thursday as crews tried to scratch out fire lines in the heavy underbrush along the steephillsides in Babcock Hole. "There is a lot of fuel, underbrush and scrub oak out there that is burning very hot," he said.


"We're just kind of shopping right now to see if there's any interest out there," said Jack Laughlin, service division manager for Colorado Correctional Industries, or CCI.
"We're asking for a partner to come up with some ideas." DOC already has a dairy and a farm, and Laughlin says it's willing to convert some of its farmland to crop production for biodiesel. Laughlin said CCI began looking into the biodiesel project earlier this year when prices were much higher. State government purchases many of the products CCI's workers make, from furniture to the fingerprint cards used by police agencies when arresting someone. Laughlin said making biodiesel from crops and from grease recovered from prison kitchens potentially could save money for state agencies that do a lot of driving.


Colorado Department of Corrections officials this year offered the services of the State Wildland Inmate Fire Team for a fee that covers the expense of guarding, feeding, paying and equipping the inmates, said Jack Laughlin, service division manager of Colorado Correctional Industries, which runs the program. "It's a win-win-win type of thing," Laughlin said. Colorado pays inmates up to $3 a day, and they can earn a portion of a monthly bonus paid by the Forest Service, he said. It's not easy work, Laughlin said. The crews work up to 14 hours a day, cutting logs with chain saws, carrying the wood to trucks and stacking branches into huge piles. Two staff members supervise 24 inmates, Laughlin said. In six years, not one of the 300 members of the inmate firefighting crews has escaped, Laughlin said. Only 25 percent of the offenders who have since been released have violated their parole terms or committed new crimes, Laughlin said. For every day they participate, inmates are credited for an extra day off their sentence, Laughlin said.

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