Carroll may make volunteers of inmates

Sheriff says program could trim costs by using prisoners for some jobs

July 04, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Carroll County Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning is awaiting approval from county officials to launch a program that would allow work-release inmates to fill idle hours and reduce sentences by performing volunteer services.

Tregoning said the county would save taxpayers' money by allowing those inmates to wash county vehicles or clean government offices. The sheriff said he proposed the program several months ago.

He noted that he recently approved a request from Winfield fire officials to allow eligible inmates to assist in cleaning carnival grounds.

"Work is gratifying to inmates, giving them a feeling of productivity," Tregoning said. "Take away their idle time, and there is less time for them to sit around and think of ways to get into trouble."

Under the program, inmates could earn up to five days a month credit toward their sentences in "industrial time," the sheriff said. They could receive the maximum credit by working about 20 to 25 hours a week performing jobs that would benefit taxpayers and themselves, he said.

As of Friday, 44 inmates were eligible for work release and a handful of outside trustees -- prisoners entrusted to do grounds work outside the jail's walls -- might also be included in the program, Tregoning said.

The sheriff rejected the notion that an inmate who, for instance, works a full day doing construction work might be too tired and therefore unwilling to participate in the program.

"Inmates are quite eager to do anything that can shorten their sentences," he said.

Tregoning said he had no idea when, or if, county officials would accept his proposal.

"It's a complicated issue," he said. "There might be existing service contracts for janitorial services, for example. The county may need to terminate or resolve them before they can consider using inmates to do the same work. Or there may be security concerns, such as cleaning an office where sensitive documents are stored."

Ralph E. Green, the county's chief of the Bureau of Permits and Inspections, said Friday that the sheriff's proposal reached his desk only two weeks ago.

"I spoke with the sheriff about the possible jobs inmates could do and we are in the process of developing a plan," Green said. "We are leaning toward using them to clean up after events at the Carroll County Farm Museum."

Those on work release would not require supervision, he said. Trustees would require some sort of supervision, he said.

Tregoning has made a similar offer to the Maryland State Police at the Westminster barracks, where extra manpower would be helpful when troopers move into the nearly completed new barracks in a couple of weeks.

"We'll be happy to use 10 to 12 inmates for the move," said Lt. Terry L. Katz, barracks commander.

Katz said he agreed with Tregoning's thought that inmates' lying around with nothing to do is an undesirable situation.

"Work teaches them how to be productive," he said. "Their helping us with the move will benefit them, us, and the community."

The Maryland State Police have used prison inmates on trustee status at various barracks for many years, said Katz, recalling one former inmate who did such good work, he received an excellent recommendation from the barracks commander to give to a prospective employer after he was released.

Pub Date: 7/04/99

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