Inmate program expected to save county thousands of dollars

Allen WorrellEditor

November 30, 2012

A new Day Reporting Program expected to save Carroll County tens of thousands of dollars will also allow the county to receive labor from criminals convicted of non-violent and non-sexual offenses.

During its Nov. 15 meeting, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the new program, which Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner said has saved Grayson County $88,000. Gardner told the board the Day Reporting Program is a collaborative effort by the Carroll County Circuit Court, Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office.

He said he found out about the program through two nearby localities that have already implemented it - Grayson and Giles counties. Only non-violent and non-sexual offenders are eligible to take part in the program, he said.

“This gives them the opportunity to provide community service locally, which will save jail costs we pay for inmates per day. We pay a per diem of $29.50 to keep them in jail (each day),” Gardner said. “Any day we use them we save that $29.50, plus we get the amount of work they’d be doing.”

Labor associated with the program will range from anything from window washing to picking up trash, Gardner said.

“Grayson County’s program saved them $88,000 in jail costs,” Gardner said. “We feel we could see a substantial savings and see some benefit from it.”

Gardner said New River Valley Regional Jail is almost always at capacity. The inmates involved with the program would not have to be closely supervised.

“We don’t have to stand and watch them,” Gardner said. “They get one shot at proving they can make it work, and if not, they go to jail.”

Also, people signed up in the program are required to attend life skills classes, and if needed, drug abuse programs.

“I’m excited because I think we can save a lot of money for this county,” Gardner said.

Pine Creek District Supervisor Bob Martin said most non-violent, non-sexual offenders are usual fairly well-mannered. At one point, he said he used some of the same kinds of offenders in school situations and it worked well.

“I think there is a place for it in our schools,” Martin said. “With all the cuts in schools, we have people who are doing so many more jobs and I could see where they could do custodial stuff, help in the kitchen - a lot of stuff.”

Gardner said he knew of one case in Grayson County where an offender with a DUI was a professional window washer. It just made sense for him to pull community service washing windows for the county.

“Sometimes there is a better alternative than putting them in jail,” Gardner said.

Laurel Fork District Supervisor Joshua Hendrick wanted to know if the program would be filled by an existing position within the Sheriff’s Office. Gardner said Grayson County hired a new person to fill the position. The board approval item in supervisor’s packets for the meeting estimated the program would cost about $30,000.

“They argued that it saved $88,000 in jail costs,” Gardner said of Grayon. “I think it would pay for itself. I’ve not worked the logistics angle of a new person, but it is an opportunity to get a lot of roadside landfills cleaned up.”

Martin said he liked the idea of implementing the program in Carroll. He said he didn’t think the type of offenders eligible for the program would gain a lot from sitting in jail. Board Chairman Sam Dickson wanted to know what kind of time frame Gardner was looking at if the board approved the program.

“I’d like it to be up and running by January 1,” Gardner said. “Grayson has offered to show us what they are doing and they learned it from Giles County.”

Fancy Gap District Supervisor Phil McCraw then made a motion for Carroll County to approve the program, calling it a “no-brainer.” Pipers Gap Supervisor Tom Littrell seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.