Work-release inmates provide valuable help

It’s a win-win-win situation for work release projects involving prisoners at the Warren County Prison. The county saves money through early release, the prisoners can apply their labor to reduced sentences and costs, and projects for governments and organizations get accomplished.

Inmates deemed “trustworthy” may work outside the jail on a variety of projects, according to Deputy Warden Gregory Deivert. “It’s a fairly new program. The sheriff and I sat down and hammered out how it works. Inmates must be work-release eligible, with no history of escape attempts.”

He added that they are typically assigned to a corrections officer supervisor, although sometimes a to civilian when the project is at a place like House of Hope, or at an upcoming project at Werner Park in Russell where Mike English will keep track of the workers.

The park, which is owned by the Russell Volunteer Fire Department, has traditionally been maintained by a committee of volunteers, but English noted that some have died and some are no longer physically able to perform the work.

The inmates will rake out a new infield at Firemens’ Field, paint the third base chainlink fence at Legion Field, take down batting cage nets and paint benches and picnic tables to help close down the park for winter.

“We’re hoping the partnership will work out well for them as well as us. We are planning on having them here one or two days a month next year, continuing into the foreseeable future,” English said.

Another recent project had prisoners removing old wax from the main courtroom, then polishing the woodwork afterward.

“It (the program) is meant to get them out of jail and back into the community,” Deivert explained.

He added that the inmates can choose to use the time against a community service sentence, or receive a $1 per day credit for fines, fees and restitution. It also helps build a good work ethic, he said.

Deivert said that one inmate was required to perform 500 hours of community service, and if he waited until he was released, he would have had to find a job and also find time to do the service.

Another inmate was indigent, and the county was willing to waive his fees if he worked. He also had 55 days removed from his sentence, saving the county money.

Not only does the program reduce county costs, it helps keep the inmate population lower. Deivert noted that the jail’s capacity is 139, and the current population is 140.

He noted that there are eight inmates who currently work outside the jail on a regular basis, “but there is potential to do more.”

Deivert concluded that only non-profit organizations and public entities are permitted to use the inmates for projects, and they are willing to look at new prospective projects.