The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Workers at Chicago Animal Shelter Lose Jobs - Inmates Begin Cleaning Animal Kennels

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Workers at Chicago Animal Shelter Lose Jobs - Inmates Begin Cleaning Animal Kennels

Seven days a week, year around, 16 Cook County jail inmates clean kennels and more at the Animal Care and Control building. The program started two years ago, but now, workers say inmates are replacing jobs.

An Animal Care and Control worker of 6 years who asked to remain anonymous says at least 11 full time employees were laid off four months after the facility's kennel-inmate program launched.

"When you say you know we're going to lay you off for fiscal reasons, we expect that as Chicagoans but then you turn around and you say we're going to bring in people who are incarcerated to do your job that hurts people," the worker told FOX 32's Tisha Lewis. "Some people have worked there 20 years so when you have someone come in and say we're going to bring in these inmates and they're going to do cleaning and stuff like that and you know what, there's going to be a lay off."

Cook County Sheriff's spokesperson Cara Smith says the inmates earn a dollar a day. They clean the cages and feed and water the animals before business hours.

"It's my understanding that the layoffs had nothing to do with this program, the work that's being done now is not being done by anyone who would have been displaced," Smith explained.

But this volunteer say otherwise about the inmates cleaning cages.

"I'm not involved in the program therefore I don't have to worry about it," volunteer Robin Cember said. "[The program] was actually done by people who were employed here."

"Some of these people were averaging pay of mid-30's and some of them lived on the West side or they lived in Englewood and stuff like that, their families relied on that money so that's going to affect those communities too," the anonymous worker added.

Most of the inmates in the kennel program are serving short jail sentences for non-violent crimes. The money they make can be used at the jail commissary to purchase small items. A worker says most of the employees laid off made about $30,000 a year.


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