There was as time when city workers’ unions protested Haverhill bringing in jail inmates to do work on public property.
The unions said it wasn’t right for the inmates to take away work — and eventually overtime pay — from city employees.
But times have changed, and thankfully.
With a decrease in the number of city workers due to budget cuts during the last few years, it is only sensible for inmates to handle work that might not otherwise get done — in particular the removal of graffiti.
After a plague of graffiti hit the city this summer, a crew of inmates from the Sheriff’s Department came to Haverhill several times to remove the markings from buildings, bridges and other locations. (See story, Page 1.)
Two teenagers face dozens of charges of spray-painting the graffiti markings. But the city had other graffiti vandals before them and there will be more in the future.
That’s why Haverhill must keep using whatever resources it can, including the crew of inmates, to remove graffiti immediately after it shows up.
Police tell us the longer graffiti lingers, the greater the chances are that more will show up.
Other crimes will increase as well, as vandals and other criminals see the graffiti-targeted area as a place where their work has taken root and can grow, police say.
Law enforcement officials are right to encourage the city to get rid of graffiti as quickly as possible, for the sake of keeping crime from spreading and also to keep the community presentable.
There are other good reasons to allow inmates to use their graffiti-removal skills in Haverhill. We are told the inmates allowed on the crew have earned the work, that they have behaved well. It’s good to reward them with work that provides some satisfaction and has them moving in the right direction, as they prepare to be released back into the community.
And, frankly, why not have them do some work that benefits the community while they are paying their debt to society?
The inmate program is worthwhile. Haverhill should continue using it.