Graham County seeking prison workers for fairgrounds

The duck ponds at Graham County Fairgrounds - Contributed Photo/Graham County

SAFFORD — Graham County is looking to get back into the prison labor market.

During Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, County Manager Dustin Welker said he will meet with the wardens of the local prison about getting prisoners back working at the fairgrounds.

“For many years, we had received anywhere between 10 to 15 inmates to help us with the fairgrounds, which we need every bit of that help,” Welker said. “Ever since COVID-19, when all the inmates were taken away for a good part of the year, ever since then, they have never rebounded.”

He said since 2020, the greatest number of inmates working at the fairgrounds were eight, but most recently it’s been difficult to get the Arizona Department of Corrections to agree to have more than one or two working there.

Department of Corrections contracts with cities, towns, counties and even school districts to provide labor by inmates, with the inmates paid less than $1 per hour.

On its website, Arizona State Prison-Safford states it sends work crews to Graham, Greenlee and Cochise counties, as well as provides a wildland fire crew and works with “a cattle operation.”