Editorial: What was the fire department thinking?

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This week we ran a story involving convicted Class-D felons working to collect money for the Crusade for Children during the first week in June. At the time we originally provided the information to the public regarding the Crusade we had no idea that some of the participants were in fact class-D felons.
We have no issues with the Class-D program in general. We are very much in favor of using inmates to perform local community work. This is not only beneficial to the community but for the inmates as well, as it allows them an opportunity to get back out into society and make a significant contribution. Generally Class-D inmates are used for more labor intensive jobs such as mowing grass, weed eating and litter removal from roadways.
The Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Department however decided that it would be a good idea to have three of these inmates collect money, not only from roadside positions but in going door to door.
According to Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Chief Nathan Nation he allowed inmates to handle money because they asked to help and because he was not aware of the rule forbidding inmates to handle money. However the rule is clearly outlined in the policy provided by the Shelby County Detention Center.
According to Detention Center Class D Coordinator Sgt. Celeste Petitt, inmates participating in the program are often facing charges such forgery or child support non payment. Pettit also said that each inmate is thoroughly searched, upon returning from a job site.
Our local fire department believes it is OK to allow people who are facing crimes relating to monetary issues to handle money. While the jail states that it conducts full scale searches, we do not believe this is necessarily sufficient where inmates are allowed nearly free access to cash.
The worst aspect of this issue however is not simply that convicted felons were allowed to collect money for a charity, but that they were allowed to go door to door in Spencer County neighborhoods. There is also apparently some dispute as to how closely their were supervised during their door to door activities.
Imagine inmates going door to door in your neighborhood. That nice young man you thought was just a firefighter could actually be a convicted felon. Did you open your door? Did they perhaps peer into your home? Worse yet, did you invite them to come in?
Any number of scenarios could be envisioned at the thought of an organized group of inmates parading through your neighborhood. Not to mention the legal liability the fire department might assume by allowing these inmates such access to citizens in their most private locations.
According to Nation, the use of inmates in this way will not happen again. Perhaps the Detention Center should reconsider before allowing the fire department any further use of the inmates. The rules were clear and they were not followed. Oftentimes when you fail to follow the rules your privileges are taken away.
Did the Detention Center do a thorough review of the matter after they were notified of the problem? There are still so many unanswered questions in this situation.
Should reprimands be handed down by the fire board? Is it acceptable to allow convicted felons access to citizens homes, especially at taxpayer expense?
Lets hope this little incident helps to teach our fire department a lesson. According to our story they say they have learned from their mistakes. Let’s hope that is true.