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SPRINGFIELD -- At least 414 Illinois prison inmates have been helping with sandbagging and storm cleanup in areas affected by the flooding in the southern part of the state.

"Our staff, facilities and the inmate work crews have been out on the front lines doing clean up and protecting communities from flood waters," said acting Illinois Department of Corrections Director S.A. Godinez in a statement issued Monday.

Inmate crews have filled more than 468,000 sandbags and worked 30,000 hours since April 24, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Prisoners traveled from Tamms, Menard and Vienna correctional centers; DuQuoin and Dixon Springs boot camps; and Hardin County Work Camp.

They have assisted areas in Alexander, Pulaski, Union, Jackson, Massac, Pope, Hardin, Gallatin, and White counties.

Crews also have been helping with storm cleanup and providing laundry service for the Illinois National Guard.

The department also sent 280 life jackets to help emergency personnel. The state has pooled resources such as portable toilets, bottled water, generators, trucks, pumps, hoses and light stands as part of an effort to fend off the flooding.

The state often has turned to prisoners to help during emergencies. In 2006, for example, work crews spent more than 60,000 hours assisting in the aftermath of tornadoes and storms that hit parts of the state in March, April and July.

During an early winter storm that year, minimum-security inmates worked nearly 20,000 hours picking up branches and limbs that came down under the weight of ice and snow.

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