Mississippi County Prisoners Helping Marmaduke

MARMADUKE, AR--Have you ever wondered who cleans up after Arkansas State football games or who keeps drainage ditches in the area clear of debris? The answer, the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Anywhere you find a state prison you will find a work release unit. Tuesday, a crew from Mississippi County was repaying their debt to society while rebuilding the tornado torn town of Marmaduke.

A creek in Marmaduke is flowing freely for the first time in over a year, thanks to inmates of the Mississippi County Work Release Unit.

"We hope to be here about two weeks and hopefully make a change in the city," said Joe Porchia, warden of the unit.

Following April 2nd's tornado, downed trees and junk filled the creek bed making it a flooding nightmare every time it rains; however the county hasn't had the resources to fix the problem until the Arkansas Department of Corrections stepped in to help.

"You see inmates out working, that gives the people in the community a good feeling because the inmates are out doing something productive," said Porchia.

Porchia has worked with the program for 13 years. He says it offers prisoners the chance to repay society and learn valuable life lessons.

"Number one it builds a good work ethic and number two it gives them a good attitude," said Porchia.

The unit is made up of four officers and 40 inmates who have less than 30 months left on their sentence.

Porchia likes his job because it offers him the opportunity to be a positive force in an inmate's life.

"I enjoy getting out and being able to make a difference in the inmate's lives. Just sometimes by giving a little instruction and guidance it goes a long way," said Porchia.

If inmates work hard in this program, the next step is finding them jobs in the community to help them earn money and build a nest egg for when they are released.

"When they don't come back we feel proud by that. When we can see them somewhere, other than prison, like Wal Mart or on the streets, that's our goal right there," said Porchia.

Over the next two weeks, the inmates will lend a helping hand to the rebuilding effort in Marmaduke.

According to Greene County Judge Jesse Dollars, the unit will help save the county over a half million dollars.