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Sheriff Pushing For New Inmate Work Program

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Sheriff Pushing For New Inmate Work Program

Putnam County Commissioners will consider a new work release program for inmates who wish to gain employment while incarcerated.

Sheriff Eddie Farris said the jail renovations are designed to allow this type of program. He said the department would receive an administrative fee from participating businesses and another chunk of the money inmates earn would go toward paying off court fines. He said he believes inmates could keep these jobs after finishing sentences and become more productive members of society right away.

“If you do this program, part of your money that you’re going to work is going to go back, has to go back to paying your fines, so the county’s going to get that money,” Farris said. “And then at the end, when they get out of jail, then we right them a check for the rest of their moneys that they’ve earned during that time.”

Farris said this program could cut down on the millions of outstanding circuit court fees by helping inmates pay them off while still incarcerated. He said if the Commission green-lights the program, between five and 30 inmates could participate in the first year.

“Most of that would be determined about what kind of crime they’ve committed, and really, probably, about their criminal history more than anything,” Farris said. “And then, the judge has to agree to it, or else it really doesn’t matter about what I say or what the district attorney says, so they will have some standards to go by.”

Farris said the program could work one of two ways. He said the Judge, District Attorney, and Sheriff could choose from inmates who are eligible to keep their jobs while incarcerated based on their criminal history and allow them to be transported to work during the day. He said the other option would be to partner with a business or factory in the county and have unemployed inmates hired and taken to and from that business daily.

“These individuals will be housed in a certain section, so they will not be in contact with the other inmates,” Farris said. “Once they get to that status, they’ll be coming in and our a different way, and they’ll only be allowed in one section, and it will not be in contact with the other inmates. So, obviously, you know, the bringing contraband in and all that will be, hopefully, cut down to nothing.”

He said he believes the department could manage the program with its existing staff in the first year, and hire an employee dedicated to facilitating inmate travel to and from work in the coming years if needed. Several commissioners agreed that the program could be a positive for many inmates and the local economy, but some asked about inmates potentially abusing the extra freedom.

“They would have a monitoring device on them but, once again, we’re talking about crimes, if they run off, I mean, they’re not violent crimes,” Farris said. “They’re not going to be violent crimes, so that’s like walking off from a work detail crew that’s picking trash up. You know, most people that’s on that are within six months of getting out anyway and they walk off and get another two years. It just doesn’t make sense.”

He said the department will vet those chosen for the program, but if it becomes a reality, he said he is sure there will likely be one or two that do choose to walk off. He said if the commissioners decide to move forward, the department will come up with more detailed criteria and come to an agreement that works for all parties.


The post Sheriff Pushing For New Inmate Work Program appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.