The Clay County Jail will soon allow select inmates to participate in a work-release program for the first time in nearly a decade-- but this time around, they'll be paying their own way.
The county council approved Ordinance 5-2006 at its Monday session, a measure that shifts the costs associated with work release and weekend incarceration from the sheriff's department to the inmates, who have not had access to a work release program in Clay County for 10 years.
When the ordinance takes effect May 1, inmates who receive the sheriff's approval will be able to keep their jobs while they serve their time-- for $75 a week, plus a one-time $25 administration fee. Weekend-incarceration inmates will be assessed $35 a week.
When the county's work-release program ended in 1996, inmates paid $10 a day to participate-- an amount that fell far short of the combined costs of uniforms, laundry and room and board incurred by each inmate, according to Sheriff Mike Heaton.
The weekly, $75 cost to the inmate, deposited into the county's general fund, should cover those expenses, Heaton said. The $25 administration fee is meant to offset the man hours logged by jail employees to enroll an inmate in the program.
Work-release enrollment is a cost and a drain on the county resources because of the paperwork to process inmates in and out of the program.
Participation is a privilege for an inmate, if they qualify, and the cost is now deferred to them saving the county resources, according to Sheriff Heaton.
The weekend incarceration program has been revamped because of the drain on resources.
"We're using paper and supplies to book them in and book them out (every weekend)," he said.
Ordinance 5-2006 gives Heaton the final say on which inmates can enroll in the program, though sex offenders and those serving time for drug convictions are specifically excluded.
The sheriff is also responsible for setting the fees for work release and weekend incarceration, which he noted would be subject to fluctuation.
"If the minimum wage goes up, that goes up," he said.