The inmates were on work-release from the Shelby County Detention Center and usually do maintenance around the fire station, Fire Chief Nathan Nation said. After the drive, which collected money for the Crusade for Children, Nation had second thoughts about his decision. He had known the inmates weren't supposed to handle money, but thought a charity drive was an exception, he said.
"We shouldn't have done it, we made a mistake," Nation said. "We were trying to help a worthy cause, we were trying to do the right thing, and regrettably we made an error."
No donations went missing and the Fire District collected nearly $8,000 more than a typical year, Nation said, adding the inmates will not be used for future donation collections.
The Shelby County Detention Center's work-release program has rules that ban inmates from handling money. The three men were all deemed to be low-risk inmates who had been convicted of nonviolent felonies.
"I couldn't believe that that had been done, because that's one thing you just don't do," said Ellen Redmon, a Taylorsville city commissioner. "You don't even hand them a dollar."
Redmon said she was supportive of the work-release program, and the City of Taylorsville has used inmates in the past for mowing and painting work. But they don't handle money, Redmon said.
Firefighters were in the neighborhoods to supervise the inmates, although they didn't go door-to-door with them, Nation said. "It's not like the old chain gang, where somebody's right there with a weapon, but they are supervised from a distance," Nation said.
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