Work release program saves tax payer dollars

Work release program saves tax payer dollars
TRI-CITIES, Wash. - Raking leaves, picking up trash on the highway, and keeping the Tri-Cities looking tidy. It's all better than sitting in a jail cell.

Low-level, low-risk offenders are doing just that. Taking advantage of their second chance.

Ivan said, "I can give back to the community at the same time and it looks good on me."

He was willing to show his face but only wants to be known as Ivan. He has been in and out of jail most of his life, beginning at age 11. He's 19 now and determined to change his life. He's got a preschooler and wants to set a better example for his son. Work crew may be his last chance.

"I don't think I'll get another opportunity on work crew but yet I'm not thinking about committing another crime," he said.

Neither does anyone else on this crew.

Work crews are a bit part of the community. They save cities money, doing jobs that parks and recreations would do like cleaning this park here.

The savings are big. Take Ivan. He was sentenced to 270 days in jail, roughly nine months.

At $50 per day it would have cost taxpayers $13,600 to keep him locked up. Instead, he's working off 6500 hours.

It saves that money, but also saves the $8,100 that would have been paid to a city worker. That's a total of more than $21,000 and that's just for Ivan.

Last year the program logged more than 10,000h ours. It's on a similar pace this year.

Offenders assigned to work must follow through. Having a real job or other commitments doesn't matter to the court.

Ivan said, "I work from 6 to 6 in the morning then come here."

Not everyone gets permission to serve on a work crew. It's considered a privilege. If you arrive late or skip a day you're dropped from the program. You'll serve the rest of your sentence behind bars. That's enough to keep many people in line.

Ivan said, "At least I have a chance to work and get my life back on track."

Work crew members are fully-screened and cannot have a violent offense to take part.