Inmate labor program benefits Sharp County
Following the recent storms and wide spread damage across Sharp County, many residents experienced property damage, however the damage was not limited to only private property.
Among the aftermath was notable damage to the ballpark in Ash Flat, where one of the dugouts which didn't possess a vent, was essentially broken in half and the roof sheared off by the strong winds.
Although Sharp County may not possess endless resources, it does have one, which is seldom thought of, inmate labor provided by the Sharp County Jail.
According to Work Release Supervisor, Bob Gotte, the arrangement between the county and inmates is a mutually beneficial one. One in which the inmates, whether general or trustees, and even citizens with fines within in the county can lessen them by working on public places.
"I've got some good guys who have knowledge and so I try to use that knowledge for particular projects," Gotte said.
One example he gave related directly to the dugout. Gotte said he currently had an inmate under his supervision who worked as a contractor prior to his incarceration.
"He helped with the ball park a lot and he laid blocks and is a contractor. That's what he did for a living before he got in trouble," Gotte said adding that wasn't the only job recently accomplished. "In the [small] courtroom [of the Sharp County Courthouse], he took the whole [judge's] bench apart. We'd gotten some lumber from a semi that lost its load going to the flooring place and they said just take it and so we were using some of that lumber to raise everything up."
Gotte said by performing community service work, inmates earn $100 daily credit which is then applied to their fines and helps them return to the community more quickly. Once out, they are able to use some of the skills they have learned to pay off other responsibilities not covered by their community service.
"I give a $60 a day credit if they're off the street because they're not incarcerated. If they're incarcerated, the sheriff has a fee, a pay-to-stay [program for the jail] and so it's $100 for the inmates. It's trying to help them get out of jail quicker," Gotte said. "[For those not incarcerated], they come in and work because they don't have a job."
An unexpected benefit of the community service projects is inmates, trustees and those who work to pay off fines who are not incarcerated, gain a sense of pride for their community. The hands on work they perform whether helping clean a local cemetery, working at a local animal shelter, domestic violence shelter or other needed project benefits not only the worker but the recipient as well.
"Some of them do very well and some don't have work ethic so I try to teach them what I know and I've got a guy that I am learning stuff from. I try to give him some of the more skilled guys so he can get more done," Gotte said. "I don't know the numbers but it saves a lot of money and at least we're getting something from it. A lot of places they go to jail for non-payment and then they're paying to stay and here, if you don't go out and work, you don't get credits."
In recent years, Gotte said some of the major projects which have taken place have saved the county tens of thousands of dollars. Some of the projects include constructing sheds to house county equipment using recycled wood both from the semi-accident and from an old disassembled house; installing fencing and repairing property at the ball field, installing new flooring in a local home for special needs residents, renovating the exterior of the courthouse, assisting in helping to install new lighting inside the courthouse and more.
"It's a good program and helps the community throughout. I sometimes get phone calls to go out and my schedule is pretty full and it fills in pretty quickly," Gotte said, adding Sharp is one of a handful of counties with a program.
Whether it's repairing a county-owned vehicle, painting, doing construction or just helping set up and take down an event, the program is mutually beneficial arrangement.