Inmates at the Central Utah Correctional Facility scheduled for parole in less than a year are being allowed to work outside the prison and may be working on state road crews in the future.

Prison officials are negotiating with the Utah Department of Transportation for a road crew that would work along I-15 from south Juab County to Cedar City, members of the Citizens Advisory Council were told at a recent meeting. The proposed work crew would be supervised by a certified corrections officer.Gunnison City Manager Ray Limb proposes using inmates for city projects, a suggestion supported by Warden Fred Van Der Veur.

Involving inmates in productive work programs is a goal of corrections officials, the warden said. Such programs would involve inmates convicted of minor crimes who pose little risk to the community. Prisoners who have committed more serious crimes will not be considered.

The prison is piloting an inmate staffing program intended to improve offerings that better meet prisoner needs. Another program focuses on inmate transition with class on critical thinking skills and employment-seeking skills.

The warden said program goals are designed to augment existing programs without compromising security and to better prepare inmates for responsibilities after leaving the corrections facility.

Illiteracy is always a concern among prison officials. A literacy lab is being established by the South Sanpete Board of Education. Area volunteers will work in that program.

A criminal justice educational program offered through Weber State University is also on the docket. Meanwhile, Com-Net and Utah State University tele-programming will continue to be available to inmates.

Van Der Veur said plans are being advanced to produce videos for public distribution. He has also approved an inmate public speaking program, limited to Fridays only, that will accommodate special requests.

The warden hopes to use savings in various programs to hire 15 staff members, improve hallway lighting and improve medical, dental and group therapy areas, council members were told.

Prison officials were praised by advisory member Dr. Lamar Stewart for not just locking up inmates but helping them to succeed. Advisory Council Chairman Miles Jensen reported that area residents are pleased with the physical appearance of the prison and that it has had a positive effect.

The fiscal year operations budget for the correctional facility is $11.7 million, the same as the previous year. It has 623 beds, which will be expanded to 2,159 as funding permits.