The D.C. Parole Board issued parole violator warrants yesterday for six parolees from Lorton Reformatory who walked off their temporary city jobs Monday to protest low pay and harsh working conditions, city officials said.
The men, most of whom were living at home, were scheduled to be taken to the D.C. Jail by law enforcement agents with the warrants until the board can decide whether to revoke their parole, according to officials.
Mayor Marion Barry, meanwhile, said he would meet with the other men in the unusual parolee-hiring program, which he started a month ago to help bring Lorton inmates back out into the community.
He said, however, that the parolees would have to be satisfied with their $3.35-an-hour minimum wage and learn to readjust to the real world.
"This is not a picnic or a Sunday school class where you can choose everything you want to do," Barry said in an interview.
"There are people in Washington who have never served a day in prison in their life who work for $3.35," the mayor said. "I don't understand what their [the parolees'] problem is."
A government spokesman said that temporary workers in the jobs held by the parolees usually get $6.37 an hour. Barry said that paying the parolees, who do not have good work records, more than minimum wage would discourage them from getting jobs in the private sector.
Barry announced early last month that the city would hire 60 Lorton inmates who were eligible for parole but who could not find a job, which was a condition of parole.
The city eventually identified 43 inmates, felons convicted of charges ranging from drugs and weapons offenses to assault, armed robbery and manslaughter.
On Monday, a group of parolees assigned to a trash-cleanup crew with the D.C. Department of Public Works walked off the job. They asked for increased pay, proper work equipment, health benefits, sick leave and exemption from working in hazardous conditions such as rain and snow.
At least one of the complaints made by the men was deemed legitimate, and city officials said the men would be given dust masks and proper boots for going into swampy work areas, and any other safety equipment they need.
According to a spokesman for the group, most of the 16 at the job site walked off Monday morning, but some returned later. The D.C. Department of Corrections asked the parole board to revoke the parole of six it said did not return to work.
Yesterday, 15 of the 16 reported to work, according to city spokesmen, but the D.C. Parole Board issued the warrants yesterday afternoon.
Asked why the officials still were requesting that parole be revoked when the men returned to work yesterday, the corrections department spokesman said it was "because they violated the parole agreement."
D.C. Parole Board Chairwoman Bernice Just said yesterday that parole-revocation hearings would be held soon. She said she could not say whether the paroles would be revoked.
"They're taking me to lock me up," Rudolph Norris, one of the parolees who walked off the city job on Monday, said in a telephone interview from his home yesterday.
He said he worked all day yesterday and thought things would be all right because the men were told they would meet with the mayor today.
He said he did not regret the walkout. "I did what I wanted to do, what I thought was best."
Barry, asked if he thought parole revocation would be fair, said "something has to happen" to them.
"People have to understand that it's not a welfare program. If it weren't for the D.C. government, they would not be out," Barry said. "In the real world of work, you can't decide to stop working . . . . You can't just walk off the job."