Pacific officials are in the early stages of striking an agreement with the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center that will see well-behaved prisoners lending a hand around town.

The agreement would allow inmates who have been heavily screened and deemed low-risk help out throughout the city with small work assignments through the state’s work release program.

Pacific Mayor Steve Myers said he met with the facility’s deputy warden, Denise Weaver, late last week to discuss how the work program could be best utilized in Pacific.

The specific work is mandated by the state and includes cutting grass, painting, weeding, picking up trash, light construction and other activities.

Myers noted the prisoner-workers wouldn’t have access to any tools that would be dangerous. He said the prisoners who would get to take part in the program are considered low risk.

Those chosen for the work program have to have no more than two years left on their sentence. Myers said beyond that, the prisoners also have to have a “good record.”

“The risk level is extremely low,” he said. “They all have good behavior records, no incidents at all with guards and they also have only a few years left on their sentences. They have every reason in the world to behave and not extend their sentences.”

Some restrictions do apply when it comes to what a prisoner was sentenced for. Not allowed within the program are those who were convicted of arson, first-degree assault, rape, attempted sexual assault, sodomy, attempted sodomy, kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit any of these offenses, and prison rule violations.

Myers said MoDOT has used prisoners in many of its projects, along with several other cities around the state.

“I have seen this done in other communities,” he asid. “MoDOT has a long record of using inmates to help them reach their goals.”

It’s estimated that more than 30,000 inmates in the state participate in the work release program.

The program has many requirements with the state, including the training of city staff and various reporting requirements.

Myers said he thinks the agreement between the prison and the city would be the first step in building a stronger relationship with the facility.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the prison to develop a relationship on this program and other programs,” he said. “We have everything to gain from developing a relationship with the prison and I look forward to growing that relationship.”

Myers noted that the prison also is working on a recycling program that could make fertilizer for the city and its residents. Both the work release and recycling programs are good examples of how a stronger relationship could benefit the city, he said.

The work release program would require a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Missouri Department of Corrections, which the city and warden are currently drafting.

The Pacific Board of Aldermen discussed the matter at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 21. Many of the aldermen said they favored the program. The memorandum of understanding is expected to be put up for consideration in September.

The medium/minimum custody prison in Pacific has the capacity to house 1,100 male inmates. During their incarceration, offenders can participate in a substance abuse education program, and inmates have access to a gym and track for exercise.

Adult basic education courses also are available to inmates who require them, and offenders can earn a GED while incarcerated.