The Georgia Court of Appeals recently handed down a decision in Clarke v. Country Home Bakers, 2008 WL 4603604 (2008), regarding whether a prisoner injured while working in a work release program was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The Court affirmed the decision of the lower courts in denying benefits.
At issue was whether the claimant was an “employee” under O.C.G.A. 34-9-1. That statute provides that, “Inmates or persons participating in a work release program, community service program, or similar program as part of the punishment for violation of a … state law shall not be deemed to be an employee while participating in work or training or while going to and from the work site or training site.” Counsel for the claimant argued that in the the case of this particular inmate, the work release program was voluntary and therefore it was not part of his punishment. The Court of Appeals disagreed and determined that even though the work release was “voluntary” the claimant was still confined and was participating in work release to avoid remaining at the prison.