GBI to Investigate Inmate Labor Allegations - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/22/04

GBI to Investigate Inmate Labor Allegations

The spotlight has intensified on Screven County sheriff Mike Kile. The GBI is investigating claims Kile misused inmate labor and forced them to work on private property, even his own home. WTOC talked with Sheriff Kile on Monday and statewide news reports have made much of what he said and didn't say.

Kile says one point of confusion in our story Monday has lead to even more accusations. "I don't lie to the press," he told us. "I'd rather not say anything at all and you've never had a bad reputation of telling a story either. It was an honest mistake and for a newspaper to say I lied is inappropriate and shows their bias."

Miscommunication aside, he still stands behind what he's done during 12 years in office. The sheriff says Monday's story lumped several programs into one. Today he clarified.

"One program has nothing to do with the other, and while one program generates some money--the work release program--the work program generates no money," he said.

Kile says inmates nearing release are allowed to hold work release jobs by day and remain in jail at night. They keep their salary minus a $10 fee for room and board. That money goes to, not from, a county fund.

In other cases, inmate volunteers have gone to county churches to clean property for no money.

But he also admitted allowing inmates to work at deputies' homes, even his own, as long as the homeowners paid the inmates.

"About five, six years ago, I had some do some work on my house," he said. "Five, six years ago, they were paid $8 an hour."

The sheriff says the amount is now $10 an hour.

He also denies the claim he's forced an inmate four years ago to work on his election signs. Kile says the man wasn't an inmate at the time.

"He asked if he could doll them up because he was broke as usual, and I said, 'Go ahead, do what you want,'" Kile told us. "He fixed them up, dolled them up and I gave him $100 for his trouble."

But are all these programs legal? It's a question state investigators are now asking.

Kile says he's allowed inmates to work for 12 years and he'll now wait to see what the investigation decides. He hopes the investigation can be completed before November's election so Screven County voters have answers on the legality of this.

He says the inmates who were supposed to be paid were paid and the ones who were considered volunteers were not: different treatment for different programs.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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