Inmate crew gives back
Ryan Summerlin December 7, 2012
The Summit County Jail inmate workers learn new skills while they give back to the community in a positive way.
Inmates are transported from the Utah State Prison to the Summit County Jail to perform work throughout Summit County.
"They volunteer to do it and those that do, love it," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said. "It’s a great way for them to get out of the facility and do some honest work."
With a pay rate of $6 a day, members of the work crew paint, do building maintenance, remove snow, landscape, do laundry and perform services for the elderly.
The crew just finished carpeting the county recorder’s office and is currently completing an office space upgrade for the Justice Center.
Inmates are carefully screened before being appointed to the work crew, Edmunds said. They must have been convicted of a minor, non-violent offense, and typically have upcoming release dates. They are also kept in small groups of four and are under constant supervision by a certified deputy.
"The program is a great asset," County Facilities Director Mike Crystal said. "The inmates love it because they can get out. They don’t care if they are shoveling snow."
Crystal said he uses the crew often and the cost savings to his own department equates to the salary of a full-time employee.
Deputy Bryan Johnson manages the work crew. Up until last week he said there were two work crews. The manager of the other work crew was reassigned to the jail, so that crew was dissolved.
"They told me that my own position here may or may not get cut," Johnson said. "For the county, this program is a golden deal. They have four guys who make $6 a day and they pay my wage plus gas for whatever it takes to go around the county. And there are more benefits than the work we do."
Johnson said he has developed a good rapport with the crew members, and the work prepares them to go back into society and work.
One inmate convicted of burglarizing residences said he joined the crew to stay busy and for the work experience.
"And it’s also a good opportunity to give back to the community for the things I’ve done," he said. "So it benefits me as well as the community. A lot of us are sorry for the crimes we did and we just want to give back in any way we can. It’s a good experience for us."
However, Edmunds said that despite the growing calls for service countywide, because of continued Sheriff’s Office position cuts, he has had to shuffle resources to some of the department’s more critical areas, such as court security and 911 Response.
"I’ll probably have to move those deputies that have been assigned to the inmate worker program to court security because we’ve had some court issues," Edmunds said. "So the inmate worker program is most likely going away. I simply have no employees to do the job I’m statutorily required to do. I just don’t have the resources to do it."
Further budget cuts to the Sheriff’s Office under discussion by the Summit County Council have only worsened the situation, despite the fact the inmate work crew program is estimated to save the county several thousand dollars a year, according to Edmunds.
"This is what happens when you don’t get any additional employees," he said. "The program is something that I as a Sheriff implemented and would like to maintain, but we’re just not being given adequate resources, and that’s a shame."