The Moffat County inmate trustee program, which allows inmates to work off sentence time and give back to the community, has been successful in the past, but it recently encountered hiccups, Sheriff Tim Jantz said.
Jantz, along with area officials and department directors, met Monday at the Moffat County Public Safety Center to address inmate program violations.
Violations included inmate use of banned items on trustee work sites, inappropriate inmate behavior and department director supervision of working inmates.
The trustee program allows eligible inmates to work for various county departments and non-profit organizations such as the Craig Cemetery, the Moffat County Fairgrounds or Loudy-Simpson Park, among others. It allows the inmates to work as many as 15 days off their sentence per month.
“Most of the inmates do get some satisfaction on giving back,” Jantz said after the meeting. “One, they get good time. Two, they get to interact with everyday citizens in the community and see the good side of life, actually feel some self worth and give something back.”
However, problems recently have surfaced stemming from county department heads not being able to supervise inmates at all times, Jantz said.
Inmates, when not being watched as guidelines require, have gained access to tobacco and alcohol, or conducted inappropriate behavior, the sheriff said.
Although those incidents are isolated, Jantz said, inmates also are trying to dictate where they are assigned to work, in hopes of getting an easier assignment.
The subject of inmates taking food from or interacting with the community, which is prohibited, also was discussed Monday.
“They’re inmates, and they are going to do inmate stuff,” Jantz said.
Moffat County commissioner Tom Gray, who organized the meeting after hearing concerns from several departments, said communication is the way to fix the inconsistencies between the Sheriff’s Office and department heads.
“I talked to practically everybody afterwards, and they all said, ‘What a great deal, we understand now what we need to do,’” Gray said.
Gray agrees with Jantz that the program is a beneficial.
“It is a way for inmates to pay back a little bit, and they get some benefit out of it, too, and it is certainly a benefit to taxpayers,” he said.
However, Jantz said the success of the program lies in finding the balance between the “grey areas” of managing the inmates according to the law, and treating them humanely.
“People want to treat people properly, and it is no different with an inmate,” he said. “He or she is there to work, and they give them the little perks, just like we do our employees.”
“We forget that there are certain guidelines, and we are trying to be kind and courteous and maintain some kind of decorum and treat them humanely but make them compliant.”
The program also saves Moffat County money by not having to hire workers to do tasks inmates are assigned to.
“He took from this community,” Jantz said referring to inmates in the program. “He has an obligation and a debt to pay back to this community.
“And sometimes when these inmates go out, the people that they are out there helping sometimes lose sight of that. He is not a volunteer; he is not an employee. He is a person that is obligated under statute to work for eight hours a day, whether it is in or outside of this facility, to earn his time, to give back.”
Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.