WIUM Tristates Public Radio

McDonough County Inmates Put to Work

Sep 3, 2012

Picking up trash for a few hours might not sound like an exciting activity, but if you're locked up you might jump at any chance to get outside for a while.

That is the thinking behind a jail inmate work program started by McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker. He considers it a good use of resources.

“The taxpayers pay for the inmates' medical, their food, this facility (the jail). This is a program where they can get something back from the system,” VanBrooker said.

The sheriff said he screens the inmates before selecting them for the program. None of those chosen are in jail for violent crimes. Only two are allowed out at a time.

VanBrooker said said the inmates will be supervised while they are out of jail, and the sheriff has been overseeing that duty himself during the early days of the program.

“I have been doing it since we've started for the simple fact I want to make sure we have all the kinks worked out of the program,” VanBrooker said.

Eventually the 15-member auxiliary deputy unit will help with the supervision.

The inmates are dressed in a blue jump suit while they're out.  They will also wear reflective vests if working near a road. VanBrooker said inmates have already picked up trash in Bushnell, Industry, Blandinsville, and Tennessee.  He would like to put them to work in communities throughout the county and he hoped to find indoor jobs for them when the weather turns cold.

VanBrooker is still deciding whether to give inmates time off their sentences for participating in the program.