Trading jail time for an opportunity to work. Holding these non-violent offenders accountable at an affordable rate.
"It's what you make it. If you make it fun, it's going to be fun. If you make it like you don't want to be here, it's going to be much harder for you,” said work crew graduate Alethea Vance.
It's Alethea Vance's last day at work crew. She didn't want to say why she got in trouble. But Alethea has been here four out of five weekdays for nearly five months.
Friday, she's on litter duty. And she doesn't mind.
"Actually, I feel relieved. I'm happy that I did it. I would rather do that than to face jail time any day,” added Vance.
Alethea is the first to recognize the lessons go beyond the manual tasks. Work crew is seen as an opportunity, and it's not given to everyone. Show up late even one day, and you're dropped from the program. Left to serve the rest of your sentence behind bars.
“Responsibility. A lot of responsibility. Because you have responsibility to show up, you have a responsibility to work and obey rules,” explained Vance.
These crews can work on anything from picking up litter, clearing snow or recycling. The free labor adds up quickly.
Benton County work crew members are pacing to log about 70,000 hours in service this year. Franklin County doesn't have as many on work crew. Its workers have contributed more than seven thousand hours so far.
We broke it down. If housing an inmate for one night can cost between fifty and seventy dollars counties are saving nearly three-quarters of a million combined by having these people do work instead of sit in a cell. And that's every year. It doesn't even include the savings of what it would cost to pay someone to do the jobs these inmates do. And for graduates like Alethea, it's paved the way for a fresh start.
“I guess you kind of in the right direction to make you realize you don't want to go back and take a step back,” said Vance.
In Franklin County, the program is partly funded by a grant. The other half comes from the offenders pockets. Each person is required to pay a fee to the probation department to participate.