Sheriff looking to expand inmate crew services

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Sheriff Darren Hooker is looking to expand the services of inmate work crews from public to private property.

The crews have long provided cleanup and trash pickup services along public roads and streets.

Now, Hooker says they will repair damage to private property if it is due to a criminal act, such as vandalism.

“What we are trying to do is have the inmates out and have them to be a productive part of society… letting them go out to clean up things and make our county look better,” Hooker said. “Right now, we are focusing on the trash that has been dumped in our rural areas, along the highways and byways of rural county roads.”

But the county is also looking into expanding the program to graffiti damage.

Hooker said as long it is not profiting individuals or private business, then crews will be working wherever the need is to clean things up.

Hooker stressed the county won’t provide inmates just because someone wants a new paint job.

And, the sheriff says, the inmates assigned to work crews are low-risk, non-violent offenders.

“We find out who it is going to do it for that day,” Hooker said about getting the inmates ready for the day. “Obviously, we don’t let it be known where we are going or what day we’re going out for security reasons.

“Like I said, it is not going to be anyone that is a flight risk or has any dangerous crimes or charges against them,” Hooker said. “These guys that are coming out might be serving five days to 90 days in the county jail.”

Charles Perez, assistant administrator at the jail, said he thinks it’s a good idea.

“It is a good community service and it shows we have people who are interested in keeping our community in good shape,” Perez said.

Perez said inmates who participate are not guaranteed good time credit, but judges do look at participation on work crews.

“Judges can look at it when it comes time for sentencing for time served and things of that nature,” Perez said. “The inmates don’t do it on a guarantee basis, but most of our inmates do it because they like the exercise and they like getting out of the facility.

“We appreciate the fact they have a good work ethic and try to accommodate that any way we can.”