Inmate Workers Help Benton County Save Money

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The Benton County Sheriff's Office is partnering with the county road department to allow low-risk inmates to report for work five days a week.

Benton County Judge Bob Clinard said he asked Sheriff Kelley Cradduck if he was willing to provide a full-time crew of inmates to help the road department.

Clinard said it's a win-win situation, which saves money and manpower.

"I think it's great that we cooperate together,” Clinard said. “It's going to save the taxpayers a lot of money because if we didn't have them to do this work, we would have to pay to get that done or hire more people."

The first crew, made up of four inmates, picked up fallen branches on the side of the road and placed them into a wood chipper Tuesday, the first day of the program. They wore their jail uniforms and road department jackets. These inmates will help crews clear brush, landscape, mow and work on upgraded roads.

"We have a lot of work for them to do. We'll be able to keep them busy full-time," Clinard said.

The work is done by prisoners who volunteer. When an inmate is booked, they fill out an application and get a background check.

"We screen; there's no gang affiliation,” Capt. Jeremy Guyll said. “We check medical records and make sure there are no health problems and things like that."

The prisoners have committed low-level misdemeanors and are serving out their sentences at the jail.

"It may be a guy who had a traffic ticket and he forgot to go to court, so the judge may have sentenced him to a couple days in jail," Guyll said. "Maybe someone got a DWI and the judge sentenced him to 14 to 30 days in jail."

Their sentence is reduced when they participate in the partnership. Inmates work one day and, in return, get one day knocked off their jail time.

"If they get 30 days in jail and if they come out and work and lend a hand, they can get 15 days off of their sentence," Clinard said.

Clinard wants the community to understand the inmates are not a danger to the area while working.

"They will have full-time guards with them and officers," Clinard said. "So it's very safe. People don't need to be concerned for their safety."