April 13, 2011 Edition

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Deputy Virgil Lynch of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department supervises jail inmates on Thursday morning as they pick up trash along Highway 412 West. The County Work Project began with three inmates who will be able to shorten their jail sentences by participating in the program, while saving money for the county.
TD Photo ~ Gloria Wilkerson

LCSD inmates participate
in County Work Project

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Sheriff's Department began its County Work Project on Thursday. The program is intended to save the county money and cut the amount of time inmates are kept in the county jail.

The program will allow inmates to cut one day off their sentence for each day they work. They will be cleaning up roadsides and parks and may also be involved in some roadwork, according to County Judge Dale Freeman.

"Three inmates jailed on District Court sentences were taken out to pick up trash along Highway 412 West," said Lawrence County Sheriff Jody Dotson. "The inmates will be able to shorten their jail sentences by participating in the work program. This will save the county thousands of dollars in expenses for trash removal, and getting people out of jail faster will reduce the cost of housing them for longer periods of time."

It costs the county $35 per day to house each inmate. The county is also responsible for medical costs for the inmates while they are incarcerated.

Another benefit of the program is to reduce overcrowding in the county's jail, which has become a problem over the past several years.

Dotson said prisoners are evaluated to determine who will be eligible to participate in the program and will be supervised by a deputy while working.

"No violent offenders, no one charged with any type of sex crime or with a history of failure to appear or escape attempts will be eligible," Dotson said. Those who are allowed to participate are able to be out in the sunshine and away from their cells while they are working. The jail doesn't have an exercise yard, and inmates rarely get to go outside, Dotson added.

A community service worker will be assigned to the Lawrence County Road Department to work for 35 days and will oversee inmates cleaning out culverts on county roads, saving the county money and making our roads better, according to Dotson.

Freeman said there are several other programs he and Dotson are working on that will be implemented in the near future.

"Inmates will be out working on days when weather permits," Dotson said. "They will be wearing safety vests and using trash bags provided by the Arkansas Highway Department.

"I am really excited about this program and what it can do for the county."

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