Inmates save county cashll money by working on road crew

Trusty program has convicts pick up litter

April 04, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Three inmates from the Carroll County Detention Center are spending 10 hours a day picking up trash and debris along the county's 946 miles of roads.

"I ain't never gonna litter again," said Joe Kibler, as he watched fellow inmate Eric Hahn struggle to stuff muddy paper into a trash bag while working along Crouse Mill Road near Taneytown.

The fledgling Trusty Work Program, designed in part to save tax dollars, allows selected inmates like Kibler, 22, and Hahn, 24, to leave jail to help with litter pickup.

The pair, along with Richard Saville, 29, are working with two county roads employees, forming a crew that picked up 3,100 pounds of debris in the first week of operation.

Benton Watson, chief of the county's Bureau of Roads Operations, estimated the trusties will save the county about $25,000 annually.

The program benefits the trusties, building self-esteem, responsibility, pride and solid work habits, said Lt. Mark Peregoy, a jail spokesman.

"It's another step in the rehabilitation process, preparing inmates to return to society and be productive," he said.

State and local authorities believe it's the first time inmates in Carroll have been used on road crews, but convicts have worked at the county landfill and have helped move furniture into the county government building.

About 485 inmates serving time in state Division of Corrections facilities are employed by 18 state agencies, five counties and Baltimore City, said David Towers, a state prisons spokesman. They work on 97 state highway crews, helping with litter control, snow removal, carpentry, painting, repairs and landscaping, he said.

State inmates earn $2.25 a day plus time off their sentences, he said.

Screening process

To ensure the public's safety, the Carroll trusties are carefully screened.

"The criteria is similar to that used for placing inmates on work release," Peregoy said.

Trusties must volunteer and have served a portion of their sentences for nonviolent crimes without incident, Peregoy said. Those on pretrial supervision are not eligible.

Saville proved his trustworthiness on the program's first day. He was plucking trash from a ditch beyond a guard rail along Gorsuch Road in Westminster when he found a sawed-off shotgun wrapped in cloth and plastic.

"My first thought was, `I wonder what this has been used for,' " Saville said. "I turned it in right away, and state police came and took it."

Each inmate acknowleged distaste for litter work, but agreed the job was preferable to sleeping or watching television all day at the detention center.

"At least we're outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air," said Saville.

The county supplies hooded sweat shirts, safety equipment and rain gear for the inmates and the jail provides their brown-bag lunches.

They must supply their own cigarettes. Each trusty chain-smoked last week, a welcome perk after being confined in the smoke-free jail.

Soon the inmates will have more than trash to deal with.

As weeds turn to brush, they will begin trim work, Watson said. On rainy days, they'll move indoors at the maintenance facility in Westminster to clean out county vehicles.

"Trash, trim and cleaning are normally lower-priority items," Watson said. "We do them when we can get to them, like on rainy days when we can't patch potholes."

"There's a lot of trash out here, and it's not so fun to pick it all up, but it feels good to be doing something that's good for the community and the environment," said Hahn.

Inmates earn time off

The county inmates are not paid for their labor, but earn time off their sentences at the rate of one day off for each five days worked.

Kibler and Saville said they would like to see that rate adjusted to be on par with trusties who work in the detention center kitchen and earn days off their jail terms at about twice the rate.

"I'm not complaining, but it would be fairer," Kibler said.

"And I would like to see them let us do other things," said Saville. "I know they can't give us chain saws -- for liability reasons -- but it would be nice to build something, or put up posts for signs."

Watson said the idea of trusties working on road crews was discussed about three years ago.

"The former sheriff [John Brown] wasn't for it because he said he didn't have the manpower to let a deputy supervise the inmates," Watson said.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning was willing to let the trusties be supervised by county employees and revived the idea, Watson said.

"Everyone wants to get the work done and likes to see inmates making productive use of their time," Watson said. "It's a good return for the investment the county puts into keeping them in the jail."

Working side by side

When Watson and Bruce Lockard, an area roads supervisor for the county, mentioned the plan, two staff members volunteered to supervise the trusty crew.

Ricky Krebs, a county employee for two years, was the first, working side by side with the inmates.

"It has been great so far," Krebs said. "We have a great group of guys, real hard workers."

The second county supervisor asked not to be identified, fearing his elderly mother would worry if she knew he was working with inmates.

"The biggest surprise to me has been how hard they work," he said. "It's unusual to have to tell a road crew to take a break, and I've had to do that. These fellas want to keep on moving."

Pub Date: 4/04/00

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