Sunday, May 27, 2007

Work Camps for Local Jails Can Reduce Inmate Population and Provide an Alternative Sentencing Choice for the Courts

Road prison or work camps throughout the country have provided an alternative sentence for local judges. Many have complained about jail overcrowding and not knowing what to do with violators on probation. The concept adds another choice for progressive sanctions and allows minimum risk offenders to stay in the local area. County-operated work camps provide labor for roads, picking up trash, clearing rights-of-way, removing debris, mowing county-owned property, clear drainage areas and provide storm water maintenance.

The inmates receive additional gain time, remain in the county for families to visit, and obtain valuable training for maintenance type jobs. Some move on to legitimate employment once released from the camp. The camp could operate near self-sufficiency with additional farming and ranching jobs in the compound.

The biggest hurdle is funding a facility. Alternate sites could reduce costs. Counties can take over abandoned lands and buildings. Inmates can provide the labor to construct facilities. Eventually the facility will cost minimum compared to a main jail or prison. The camps do not require high security and need to house minimum risk offenders. The cost savings in county employees working the labor jobs will eventually balance out construction costs. The key is allowing the offender to be accountable and give him or her a productive purpose while serving his or her sentence.

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