Inmate work program helps county in several ways

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Inmates in the Lincoln County inmate work crew have discoveredthat hard work really does pay off.

Five mornings a week, inmate work crew supervisor J.R. Beardloads a truck with inmates who are willing to face a long day’swork to help clear the fines they owe the county and heads out insearch of work.

The group of inmates, who have gone through a careful screeningprocess, can be seen most often on the sides of roads picking uptrash, but that’s only the beginning.

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“The inmate work program is very beneficial to the county inmany ways,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Lynn Boyte.

Other tasks that help inmates pay off justice court finesinclude working at Lake Lincoln State Park, helping with events atthe multi-use facility, working on church grounds and assistingsupervisors with road work.

“They also moved tons of books from the library into two storagetrailers to help get ready for construction at the library,” saidBeard, adding that he even received a note from library employeesin appreciation of the hard work.

Also on a regular basis, the inmate work crew washes inmates’clothing, cleans around the courthouse and washes law enforcementvehicles.

Each day of work subtracts $42 from the inmates’ fines. Theprogram, which Boyte says was one of the first in the state, helpsthe county collect on fines and save money on labor for necessarytasks.

“The beautiful thing about the inmate work program is that itdoesn’t cost the taxpayers,” said Boyte. “If we didn’t have themwe’d have to pay someone to do all those things.”

The only costs are for gasoline and the inmate supervisor’ssalary, compared to the cost of employing several people.

The inmate work program also helped save the county from fundingcuts a few years ago, remembered Boyte.

“At one time the state aid folks were threatening to cut fundsbecause the county road right-of-ways were not being maintained, sowe used the inmates to get them in the right condition,” saidBoyte.

Although Boyte predicts the efforts of the inmates should havecompletely rid the county of litter years ago, they continue tofind more illegal dump sites and more trash on the roadway.

“We’ve cleaned up some roads dozens of times and it’s a shamethat people continue to throw trash out rather than taking it homeand putting it in the garbage,” said Boyte.

In the last six months, the inmate work crew has beenresponsible for beautifying over 200 miles of roadway.

They picked up almost 500 tires during April and May, along withabout 100,000 pounds of trash.

Inmates also cleaned illegal dumping areas of 16 loads of whitegoods during April and May. White goods are items like stoves,refrigerators and water heaters.

He hopes to one day make an even bigger impact in the area withthe inmate work program when the county receives the 20 inmatespromised from the state.

“The people in the program now are just a few coming fromjustice court. Imagine what we could do with 20 state inmates,” hesaid.

Boyte is proud of the group’s efforts and believes they are alsoproud of themselves. He has seen the work program bring pride andconfidence to those who made mistakes in life and have a chance tochange.

“We get a lot of calls and compliments on how well they’redoing,” he added.