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Funding concerns raised over alternative work release program

Published December 16. 2010 05:00PM

Carbon County is weighing its options on an alternative work release program that it currently has for inmates at the Carbon County Correctional Facility.

During the monthly meeting of the county prison board on Wednesday, the board discussed the program, which was implemented in 2007, to help inmates who are approved for work release, lessen their sentence by doing volunteer work at nonprofit organizations.

Robert Crampsie, county controller, provided a breakdown of the revenue and expenses of the program.

He said that in 2010, the county received a $4,219 PCCD grant for use in the program.

The total cost to operate the program is $24,473.58, which includes the pay for a part-time corrections officer to cover the full-time corrections officer's shift when they are sent to supervise the inmates at various locations; as well as employer FICA costs. With the grant, the total cost to the taxpayers, Crampsie said, is $20,254.58.

"I am bringing this up because I think it's something that we have to look at," he said. "I understand that it is a merits program that helps non-profits and the inmates but I think it's time that we have to find ways to fund the program other than using taxpayers' dollars."

He then provided a few ideas on how the county could increase revenue or cut expenses of the program.

The board discussed the matter to see what could be done because they do not want to see the program end.

Warden Joseph Gross said that one of the options to save costs, which was to have the nonprofit utilizing the program supply the supervision for these inmates, was not an option that he would not even consider because it opens the prison and county up to liability and the potential of contraband being brought into the facility.

Commissioner Charles Getz, who has been an advocate of the highway litter crew program through the prison, which is part of this alternative work release program, said he plans to look into ways to fund the program.

Randall Smith, county administrator, said that some neighboring counties have utilized a portion of the hotel tax monies for litter cleanup alongside the roads because the county deals with tourism.

Frank Shubeck, work release/treatment director, said that another option, which is to cut the hours of the program down significantly, would create a nightmare for sentencing purposes because the program is designed to work on a full-time basis.

According to Shubeck, inmates work eight-hour days, five days a week. For every 24 hours they work, one day is taken off their sentence.

If the program hours are cut, it would take the inmates a lot longer to get a day off their sentence and would create problems for the courts who sentence the inmates to this program.

The board discussed the matter further and decided that they will revisit the subject at next month's meeting.

No action was taken.

The alternative work release program began in September 2007.

The program operates under the same requirements as the work release program.

Once inmates are deemed eligible for work release, they have the choice to work at a business or volunteer. If they volunteer, they are placed with an organization that has requested volunteers for various jobs.

The program was designed to help reintegrate inmates back into society while helping the community. It also was designed to help the problem of overcrowding at the 172-bed prison.

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