Topeka First it was Gov. Joan Finney's sneaky cat. Now Gov. Bill Graves has given the boot to some of his predecessor's house help.
Two minimum-security prisoners from the central unit of the Topeka Correctional Facility have lost their unpaid assignments as housekeepers at Cedar Crest, the state-owned governor's mansion.
"Governor and Mrs. Graves do their own laundry," Mike Matson, the governor's press secretary, said Tuesday. "They always have and they always will."
A rotating crew of two female inmates from the prison have been doing housework, including laundry, at Cedar Crest since the start of Finney's administration four years ago, said Bill Miskell, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections.
But that ended after Graves took office last week, Miskell said.
That doesn't mean the governor is turning his back on the Corrections Department's inmate labor program, which assigns minimum security inmates from seven of the state's nine prisons to work for various state agencies. Miskell said a crew of five inmates will still be used to mow the lawn and keep up the grounds at Cedar Crest.
"We keep people as productively occupied as we can," Miskell said.
He said that between July 1 and Nov. 30, 1994, inmate worker crews provided 230,344 hours of work for various projects around the state. That labor, if paid at the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour, would have cost the state about $979,000. But inmates are paid just $1.05 a day for their work.
The inmates are assigned to projects that don't have any labor budgets, so they aren't displacing paid workers, Miskell said.
However, some of the projects have gone on for years.
Inmates have done grounds maintenance work at Cedar Crest since the early 1980s, Miskell said.
And he said inmates have been used "for as many years as anyone can remember" to do maintenance and clean up at the State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.