Inmate program back at work
Ryan Summerlin September 2, 2014
If Summit County’s roads and byways look cleaner this summer than last summer, there is a good reason for that.
The four blue-shirted, blue pants-wearing prison inmates of the Inmate Community Work Program have often been working up to 11 hours a day on weekdays cleaning trash from roads, among hundreds of other projects in the Summit County Sheriff’s Office program.
Due to budget cuts, the calendar year of 2013 was the first year since the program began under Sheriff Dave Edmunds’ first years in office that the program was shuttered.
But it returned this year, and officials in the Sheriff’s Department want it to be expanded in the future as a way to benefit the community as well as inmates.
"It helps out because it reduces recidivism," said Captain Justin Martinez, who along with Lieutenant Kati Booth oversees the program. "It rehabilitates inmates, and helps the community out."
There is one deputy per four-inmate team, with Deputy Bryan Johnson, a retired Salt Lake City police officer, in charge of the work details. "This saves Summit County a tremendous amount of money," Johnson said. "It’s a tremendous resource for teaching people who have been in trouble how to work, and it teaches them responsibility."
With only four spots budgeted for, there is a lot of competition to snag one of those spots, even with 11-hour days the norm, and not the exception. "They are grateful and don’t want to do anything to mess that up," Martinez said.
All the inmates involved are state prison inmates, and on average have about six months left in their sentences, Johnson said.
There is an application process, as well as lengthy screening process that often puts the applicants in kitchen jobs before being allowed to be on a work detail.
"We vet them very thoroughly," Martinez said. "There is no one that will prey on society We make sure they aren’t problem children."
If the inmates are lucky enough to be placed on the work detail and get some fresh air, Johnson makes sure they are busy. The shackles and handcuffs get taken off and they mow lawns, cut weeds, help out at Habitat for Humanity, wash Search and Rescue vehicles, plant trees, shovel elderly people’s driveways and sidewalks, paint anything that isn’t alive, and after they have done all of those and hundreds of other things, they pick up trash all around the County.
The work detail only does work for non-profits and governmental entities, Johnson said, and murderers and other serious offenders aren’t allowed. They each get paid $6 per day of work.
Besides saving the county money by putting them to work, the opportunity to teach the inmates skills that they can put to use in the outside world is unbeatable, Johnson said.