INSTRUCTIONS: Write a complete news story based on the following information. Your lead should summarize the most important news and not exceed 35 words. All other paragraphs cannot be longer than 40 words.

Be thorough; include all the information you consider important. Because much of the material is wordy, awkward and poorly organized, it should be extensively rewritten. Correct any errors you may find in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Use AP style. The style book is posted.

Keep in mind that information should be organized and written by order of importance and not chronologically.

Look up the definition of the word trustee if you are unsure of its meaning.

Note there is vocal opposition to the proposal. Be sure to note it early and briefly. Later expand on it. You will find a link to a story. Use the information sparingly to provide some context.

Review the assignment as soon as possible and let us know if you have questions or concerns. Please don’t do so at the last minute.

The assigned length is 500 to 550 words. It is due Thursday at 9 a.m. Please submit as a Word document.

Gus DiCesare, the Hilltop County sheriff, appeared before the County Board of Supervisors today. He made an unusual proposal that he says will save the county money—and help beautify it, all at the same time.

He proposed that trustees in his county jail should be taken from the jail six days a week, Monday through Saturday, to clean the countys roadways of trash and other debris.

He said all he needs is a truck to take 30 to 40 inmates to roadsides in need of cleaning and to haul away the debris. The trusties will wear their regular jailhouse uniforms: bright orange in color.

They will work in crews of 8 or 10 and will be guarded by 2 armed officers with radio communication. Sheriff DiCesare admitted, “Any time you work

prisoners outside the institution, there is always a slight risk of escape. So, we’re not going to put Jack the Ripper out there. I think all work just fine.”

He said that he’s not worried about escapes, however. He thinks they are highly unlikely. Those chosen won’t be high-risk inmates. He explained that inmates on the road crews will be trustees carefully chosen by his staff.

Corrections officers will screen inmates who have been sentenced, weeding out sex offenders and those guilty of assaults and other serious crimes. Likely candidates will be those convicted of theft, fraud, drunken driven, writing bad checks, and petty larceny and minor drug offenses, for example.

DiCesare added, while seeing how the program works initially, the crews will work in more remote areas of the county. He further explained that all the trusties will be serving sentences of less than a year and, if they escape, they would be liable for sentencing of up to five more years in a state prison.

The county used road crews until the l970s.

Officials abolished them then because some people began to complain that the county was exploiting the prisoners and that it was degrading for them to work along roadways where everyone could see them and know they were criminals. The sheriff said he was a deputy then, and many inmates were unhappy when the county abandoned the practice.

He did, however, acknowledge that the program had some problems. “We had a few who managed to escape, and until we were able to track them down there was quite a bit of panic among residents. As I’ve said, there’s always a risk a prisoner could escape despite our best efforts to keep that from happening”

While other jails and prisons pay a dollar an hour, these will be paid about 25 cents an hour for their work. They would work five to six hours a day, five days a week. Also, for each month they work, four days will be taken off their sentence. The sheriff said he does not expect a problem finding volunteers. Most inmates like to work, he said. It makes their time go faster.

A lot of them would work seven days a week if you let them, anything to get out of their cells, he said. Prisoners inside the jail, helping with the

cleaning and cooking there, are also paid 25 cents an hour, and money for some prisoners’ salaries is already budgeted in the Sheriff’s Departments annual budget.

Kerwin Dawkins, head of the county’s Public Works Department, was also at the meeting and supported the idea. He agreed to provide all the necessary trucks. He said he likes the idea because the county needs crews to clean both roadways and parks and, since the labor costs are low, the plan will save his department money as well as benefit the public.

Dawkins further stated that he firmly believes that the program will also be popular with the public because people will like to see the jails inmates work. If successful, the program will expand to include more inmates and more trucks.

However, County Supervisor Leonard Lopez said he strongly opposes the proposal.

“There is a good reason we discontinued this practice years ago,” he said. “It’s nothing less than exploitation of prisoners. We have an unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent in the county.

“Surely there are plenty of unemployed residents who would be happy to do this work. We’re talking about at least 40 new jobs that the unemployed could fill. Sure, it would cost more, but putting law-abiding citizens to work has great social value.”

The use of prison labor is morally repugnant, Hilltop Justice Center Director Michael Collins told supervisors.

“This idea is being presented as beneficial to prisoners,” said Collins, who served 15 years in Upton State Penitentiary. “I know from personal experience, that inmates are pressured into working. Prison staff make life hard on those who refuse to go along. This is forced labor.”

The Justice Center is a non-profit organization that advocates for prisoners wrongly convicted.

“If the program was truly voluntary and workers were paid the minimum wage, this would be great program. But paying laborers 25 cents an hour is close to slavery. Let’s don’t go back to the bad old days.”

Supervisors will discuss the proposal at next month’s meeting and likely will decide then whether to accept or reject it.


  • INSTRUCTIONS: Write a complete news story based on the following information. Your lead should summarize the most important news and not exceed 35 words. All other paragraphs cannot be longer than 40 words.

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