Ashland Prison Staff Protests

Ryan and Greta Douthat, employees of the federal prison in Ashland, Kentucky, join fellow workers Friday in protesting payless paydays due to the government shutdown. 

ASHLAND, Ky.  – Employees of the federal prison here protested the government shutdown Friday, carrying placards and voicing concern that 35 days without pay has left them in a financial crisis.

Still, they continued to report to work and hope for a resolve to the political stalemate in Washington that has led to payless paydays.

The demonstration occurred outside the Carl Perkins Federal Building in downtown Ashland in northeast Kentucky. The low security prison is located five miles outside of the city.

Rick Brewer, local head of the American Federation of Government Employees, said many of the staff  rely on their prison paycheck to pay bills, buy groceries, put gas in their cars and cover everyday living expenses.

“Some of the children are dependent on medications that aren’t fully covered by staff insurance,” said Brewer. “They may be forced to go without medical treatment.”

Local churches, unions, businesses and civic organizations have been providing assistance where needed, said Brewer, but he added there is worry about how long that can last.

“This shutdown has forced staff to take out loans, apply for credit cards, or work on the side just to make extra money to buy food for their families,” he said. “And there doesn’t appear to be end to this anytime soon.”

Greta and Ryan Douthat are among six couples who work at the prison and who rely on their paychecks to support their family. They said they will continue to work without pay because they care about the community’s safety and the importance of their work.

“It's dangerous,” Greta said of her job as a prison teacher. “But I like it. It's meaningful. I took the position originally for better pay, better benefits. I didn't plan for this.”

Details for this story were provided by the Ashland, Kentucky, Daily Independent.