The city of Taylorville is getting a hand in the tornado recovery effort from the same people who grew all of the flowers at the Illinois State Fair: volunteer inmates.

As early as Tuesday morning, a dozen volunteer inmates clad in red jackets from the Taylorville Correctional Center and the Green County Work Camp were in Taylorville cleaning up the debris from Saturday’s EF-3 tornado. The Illinois Department of Corrections coordinates with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to shift the volunteers from their normal work, which ranges from highway cleanup to planting, growing and potting all of the flowers you see at the state fair, and sends them to help with disaster recovery efforts.

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None of the inmates are forced into labor. All of the volunteers are low-level offenders that have been thoroughly vetted.

Coordinator Mike Chappell, a statewide security specialist with IDOC, said they are eager to help.

“We divert those crews from their day-to-day operations to areas like this,” he said. “They have the same sense of community that we have. They’re no different than anyone else. They just want to help.”

One of the most important roles the inmates play is to fill and deliver sandbags to flooded areas.

“We always have a huge number of inmates willing to volunteer and come out and fill thousands of sandbags,” Chappell said.

The inmates plan to continue in Taylorville through next week and until the cleaning is finished.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio /