County’s working inmates making the grade

A year after Mille Lacs County took over the Sentence to Serve (STS) program from the state, things are going well, Sheriff Brent Lindgren told County Board members at their July 17 meeting.

Lindgren told commissioners that inmates, who trim a day from their sentence for every eight hours worked in the program, accounted for 37,416 work hours in the 12 months through June 2012.

There were 211 inmates that participated and their hours reduced housing of inmates for 4,677 days, resulting in a potential savings of $233,850, figured on $50 a day for boarding.

The program was previously run by the state which provided 75 percent of the funding.

That eventually dropped to 50 percent, with the state still setting the rules, and when it was going to drop to 25 percent, Lindgren got the go-ahead to switch it to a county program.

“We thought we could do it cheaper and that’s basically what we’ve done the last year,” Lindgren told commissioners. “It’s a good program all the way around.”

Inmates work in different community service projects around the county and in county projects. The STS crew leader is also a custodian for the sheriff’s office.

For example, with 80 to 100 people normally in jail per day at the county jail, the county laundry service runs for 24 hours a day.

“That washer and dryer are never shut off,” Lindgren said.

Inmates work three eight-hours shifts a day to keep the laundry service running.

They also work in the kitchen for 12 hours a day where meals are prepared for up to 100 people a day.

Inmates put in 154 hours at the county fairgrounds last year, worked 208 hours on the county’s hazardous waste days, logged 510 hours painting various county properties last year, put in 320 hours on snow removal last winter, and totaled 1,250 hours working on county buildings.

They also worked on many other projects, even putting in 152 hours for another county on a project that benefitted both counties.

Commissioner Dan Whitcomb asked how projects are picked.

“We get requests and some are honored and some are not,” Lindgren responded. “It just depends upon the situation.”

There were 32,456 hours worked inside last year, 4,808 outside.

Inmates who work in the program must first be allowed to participate by a judge’s order. Then they must also meet county standards, Lindgren said.

Not all who want to participate in the program are allowed to, he said.



Significant revenue for boarding prisoners at jail

Commissioner Frank Courteau asked Lindgren if the board could again, as it used to, get reports on revenue for boarding prisoners from other counties.

Lindgren said he would do that and noted that in the first half of this year the county had collected about $110,000 for boarding prisoners.

Projections are for that amount to total between $200,000 and $250,000 this year, he said Monday in an interview.

The county has a figure of $300,000 in its budget for 2012 and that may or may not be reached, he said.