Parents concerned over inmates working near kids - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Parents concerned over inmates working near kids

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CORDOVA, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Some Mid-South parents were shocked to find out Shelby County inmates have been working within a few feet of their children.

Concerned parents pulled their children out of summer camp Thursday morning after witnessing inmates painting at the Cordova Community Center.

"They had the Shelby County DC shirts on," said parent Nick Burchett. "I saw them painting, I smelled the fumes, and I was a little shocked. I was caught off guard."

Burchett wasn't alone. Two other parents contacted FOX13 News what they witnessed after dropping their kids off at the camp. They were concerned and pulled their children out of camp as well.

FOX13 News talked with James Coleman, Director of the Shelby County Department of Corrections. He said it is not out of the norm for inmates to work within the vicinity of children.

"There's no one out there charged with any type of crime that would be a child molestation, kidnapping or rape or anything of that nature," Coleman said. "These are minimal security inmates."

The inmates are always under constant supervision and provide a service to non-profits who can't afford to pay someone to do the work, Coleman added.

"We want to assure the parents that these inmates have gone through a process where we have looked at them, screened them that they don't present a threat to the community," he said.

Even so, low level inmates working so close to young children did not sit well with parents.

"These guys are paying their debt to society," Burchett said. "I respect that, but they're not going to pay their debt to society while my child is in the other room."

Even knowing non-profits need help from inmates to financially survive, Burchett said the help should never happen if children are near.

"Keep them up at midnight," Burchett said. "When I paint at my job, keep em up at that time of the day, not when my child is present."

Like many non-profits, the Cordova Community Center has been using inmates for work projects since 2008, without incident.

Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer told FOX13 News the correctional facility is going to revise its policy to state that inmates are not to be around children at any time.

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