In Meridian, Bonita Lakes Park is a magnet for men, women, and children looking for a few pleasant hours outdoors. All of the trails, woods, and playgrounds are kept highly maintained to insure a high quality outdoor facility.
Keeping the 33,000 acre watershed clean isn't cheap, therefore the city allows 'trusties' or 'inmate workers' to work off fines or sentences on the trails. Seeing the men in jumpsuits can make some nervous; others appreciate the work.
"Just being a teenage girl, I'd feel uncomfortable if I was by myself. But they're just doing their job," said Lindsey Mercer who visits Bonita.
Lauderdale County Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun says the inmate workers save taxpayers money.
"They're still inmates, but they have met the qualifications to be a worker," said Calhoun, "which allows them to not be in a cell all the time and to be utilized by the government to do services that taxpayers would have to pay someone to do or they wouldn't get done."
So who are these men that are allowed to work on secluded trails?
"To reassure the public, the inmates that you do see at Bonita Lakes Park are non-violent offenders and non-felons and they are supervised," said Meridian Assistant Police Chief Jeff Lewis.
Without the use of inmate workers or trusties, Bonita Lakes would not be the only place to suffer. These men also work to keep many city buildings and streets clean as well.
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