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Inmate Work Program Implemented To Improve Wankel Park

Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) - The City of Utica and the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office are partnering to improve Wankel Park in South Utica. The goal is to build a more visible entrance to the park, complete with new plants and other shrubbery. Mayor Robert Palmieri says the project is an example of doing more with less. “It’s just beneficial to the City of Utica and I look forward to working with them, not only today on this, but on any other initiative that we can. It’s a great day for the city when we’re showing collaboration between all members of elected bodies between the city and the county,” he said.

The work is being done by prisoners. Chief Deputy and Jail Administrator, Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, Gabrielle Liddy, says the program provides a foundation the inmates can build upon after their release. “They learn a whole new aspect of life as supposed to what they’ve probably known on the streets, and the fact of the matter is that they come back with some hope that they don’t have to continue on whatever path they were on–If they didn’t have employment or they were going down a bad road–that they do have some skills to get some gainful employment when they leave,” she said.

Oneida County Legislator for the 22nd District, Harmony Speciale, agrees the project gets the most out of taxpayer dollars but says sustainability is a key component. She said, “I would like to see our elected officials really make a concerted effort to come together with these individuals of the community–The organizations, the residents, the businesses–and actually help support them so that they can continue this project. So, it’s not just a one year deal, or it’s not just planting flower bushes and it gets ripped up and nothing else happens. I want to see change. I want to make sure that the roots are actually planted and it bears good fruit.”

Oneida County Legislator for the 19th District, Daniel Trevisani, says the idea for the collaboration came after talking to Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol who informed him about the pilot program that provides labor at no cost to the city, as well as, an educational experience for the inmates.

Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

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