Inmate workers help with fruit picker shortage - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Inmate workers help with fruit picker shortage

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QUINCY, Wash.-- A shortage of fruit pickers around the state this harvest season has caused some major headaches for growers. But now with the help of some Washington State inmates, a Quincy orchard is getting picked.

Governor Gregoire's office, the Department's of Corrections and Agriculture, as well as growers came together with an idea. Why not use inmate work groups? So inmates from Olympic Corrections Facility near Forks, WA traveled to Quincy for the picking.

It costs about $22 an hour per picker for the inmates to work. They end up seeing about $1 or $2 after money is taken out for various costs and inmate obligations. However the DOC says they had some strict guidelines before agreeing to do this.

"We were able to provide the service under 2 circumstances; 1, it couldn't be a cost to taxpayers. And 2, we cannot displace civilian workers," said Danielle Wiles with the Washington State Department of Corrections.

Wiles says the workers are happy to be out helping their community. She stresses all the workers are low risk, minimum security inmates with no recent infractions.