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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Repaying the community

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Clay County Sheriff's Department Jail Officer, Robert "Pappy" Yocom, background, watches as inmates from the jail do maintenance work at the Forest Park Golf Course Aug. 23. The inmates, out on the work release program, apply blacktop sealer to the cart path and cart parking area by the pro shop and cart storage building. Left: William Taylor, Yocom, Marvin Dickison and Ricky Cooksey.

- 'Pappy' Yocom oversees inmates on work release

They might be seen anywhere in the county. The orange suits worn by the workers draw the attention of passers-by. And somewhere close by will be a grey-haired gentleman in a brown uniform. That's "Pappy" Yocom, Jail Officer of the Clay County Sheriff's Department, supervising the county jail inmates out on the work release program.

Started in 1999 by Sheriff Rob Carter with the help of Pappy, the inmate work release program primarily uses inmates with misdemeanor charges or convictions. Occasionally some charged with felonies help out.

Attitude, self-control and willingness to work and take orders are influential in determining who gets on the program. Participants are screened by Sheriff Carter, Jail Commander Rob Judd and Pappy.

The inmates are not allowed to socialize with family or friends during the work release. Also, they are not allowed to receive any items from or give items to family or friends while out on work release. Pappy said most of the inmates at the jail want to be on the program but he has to limit it to eight to 10 men as that's about all he can safely supervise. Pappy came to the Clay County Sheriff's Department very qualified for the job. He worked as Labor Line Officer and Supervisor of the work release program at the Indiana State Farm. It was there that he acquired his nickname.

He was checking in to work one night. Lt. Lowe, the shift supervisor, was giving Pappy his uniforms and jokingly asked if he was any relation to Mammy and Pappy Yocom in the funny papers.

"I said yes, that's my mom and dad," Pappy said laughing. "The name just followed me. Everybody calls me that now."

After 18 years at the State Farm, Pappy retired.

"For six years I didn't do anything but fish, do dishes and make beds while my wife worked," he said. "I finally told her, I'm not putting up with this, so I got a job. I'd work then go home and do dishes and make beds. Same as what I did before just in less time.

"I'm joking," Pappy said laughing. "I don't mind helping my wife around the house. She still works. And we enjoy our church together, the Family Worship Center on north SR 59.

"I started at the Clay County Sheriff's Department in June, 1998," Pappy continued. "Then Mr. Carter brought in this program and I took it over."

The inmates have done work throughout the county including parks clean-up, unloading recycling bins in Brazil and Clay City, painting at churches who request it, cleanup at Roy Bran Stadium, move all benches and tables from the park to the pavilion in the fall and do trash pick-up on many of the city and county roads.

Pappy said he thought it takes a lot of tension off of the fellows who sit in a cell day in and day out. When they get out, it gives them a sense of worth and accomplishment.

On this warm summer August morning Pappy had escorted seven inmates to the Forest Park Golf Course. They were putting blacktop sealer on the cart path and cart parking area behind the pro shop.

The men were sweating in the hot sun and working hard but seemed to be in high spirits and enjoying the activity. Asked what they thought of the program, several quickly responded.

"I think it's great that we get to come out," William Taylor said.

"It's good for the community," Steve Lee added.

Ricky Cooksey said, "It gives us exercise."

And everyone seemed to agree with Marvin Dickison when he said, "It's good anger management."

Sheriff Carter said that as far as he knew this was the only organized inmate work crew started in Clay County with regards to the Sheriff's Department.

"I started it with the help of Pappy Yocom," Carter said. "There's no doubt in my mind that Pappy has the best interest of this county at heart. He's served this department and served the county taxpayers proudly. They should be proud of him."

Carter said he'd had positive reactions to the work crew.

"The primary goal of the project is to teach the inmates basic work ethics, labor skills and social responsibilities," Carter said, "and to try to get them to pay something back to the community in the process."

Pappy thinks it's a good program but humbly refuses any credit for it.

"I do this for Mr. Carter," he said. "It's his project. I'm just the one who implements the program."

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