A fair deal

Inmates get some fresh air on work release at the Moffat County Fair

Sweeping, shoveling, cleaning bathrooms or hauling boards: Almost anything beats sitting in a jail cell all day.

For three inmates being held at the Moffat County Jail, this year's fair is portal to a friendlier outside world while laboring on work release.

At first, Todd Murray, Duane Garfield and Frank Tavapont might blend in as typical workers, but upon closer inspection, you might start noticing numbers on their pant legs, uniformly dressed T-shirts and the stenciling on their back: INMATE.

This is Tavapont's first experience with the work release process, and he is happy it's at the fairgrounds.

"We get to talk to and meet different people," Tavapont said as he stood in the shade of the barn's roof.

After a few minutes in the shade and a couple of sips of Gatorade later Thursday, a foreman rolls up on a mini tractor and directs the crew to its next job.

Back in the heat with rakes in hand, the inmates are spreading cedar chips for the fair's evening livestock shows.

"They do just about whatever we ask them to do," fairgrounds manager Bill Sixkiller said. "Plus they might have a few minutes to watch the fair."

Sixkiller said he's happy to have the help and thinks it's good for the inmates because working at the fair is always something different.

But the Moffat County Fair isn't the only time inmates can be found helping around the grounds.

Sixkiller said he's received help from inmates and people doing community service since the late 1980s.

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos, 18, who's been around since the late 1980s, said she doesn't mind having the inmates around as she shows steers.

"It's good for them to get out and do community work, and it's good for the community, too," Raftopoulos said.

And although this particular group of inmates is new to Craig, Sixkiller said he likes to get the same inmates and make them part of the community.

"We typically like to keep the same two inmates all the time so we don't have to train them over and over," he said.

And at the end of the day, when most head home, the men hop in the back of a white pickup, chatting over who's going to ride in the cab on their way to the county jail.

And although their work sometimes might go unnoticed, they are giving back to the community under the relentless 3 o'clock sun as they try to right a wrong.

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