McNEIL ISLAND, Wash. -- Although the prison closed on McNeil Island in 2011, the state is sending inmates out to the island again.

But they are only staying for the day in a move that could save the state $1.5 million over the next two years.

In September state inmates started doing routine maintenance jobs state workers had been doing on the island.

While the prison is shut down, the state still houses more than 250 sex offenders at the McNeil Island's Special Commitment Center.

Currently about ten inmates spend every weekday on the island maintaining the grounds, the water treatment facilities and ferries that serve the island.

I'm at a $1.30... an hour, said Shauntay Shavies, serving a 15-year sentence for assault at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center south of Olympia.

Shavies said while the state is saving money with his cheap labor, he and the inmates on his work crew are learning valuable skills and will be less likely to reoffend when released.

It takes something to put 'beans in the bank' so you don't come back, said Earrl Kropelnicki, a five-time DUI offender serving a five-year sentence.

The program could expand to 40 inmates a day by the beginning of next year, according to the Department of Corrections.

To qualify for the McNeil Island work crew, an offender must be violation free for a year and have a high school diploma or G.E.D.

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