Pride in service
Program allows inmates to reduce sentences
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 7:00 PM
PESHTIGO - A program in the Marinette County Jail enables inmates to work in the community in return for a shortened sentence.
A community service program at the Marinette County Jail allows this man to work at Badger Park in exchange for a shorter sentence. In the photo, he sweeps one of two cabins at Badger Park Wednesday to get ready for the Peshtigo Historical Day.
During a recent Board of Public Works meeting, Ellen Hanneman, Marinette County Jail's program coordinator, presented a community service program the City of Marinette could participate in.
The board approved initial meetings between Miller, City Assessor Mike Minzlaff and Hanneman to discuss what opportunities there are within the City of Marinette for the county inmates to be of use.
Peshtigo's Badger Park and Goodwill in Marinette already utilize the inmates' community service program on a regular basis.
"I think it is wonderful to be able to provide inmates the opportunity to give back," said David Zahn, Peshtigo parks director. "The key part to this is the community service. They have to opportunity to pay back their debt to society."
Badger Park utilizes two inmates on a regular basis and has taken part in this community service program for the past three years. The inmates work at raking leaves, landscaping, cleaning, painting and other tasks associated with the park.
"The inmates are given rules and they know what is expected of them," Zahn said. "They work along side of us. We've been very pleased with the people we have worked with and the willingness of the inmates to work."
Zahn also made it clear that the inmates are not used to save money for the parks. He said they help with projects that would otherwise be too ambitious for the parks' crew to tackle by themselves. A couple of years ago, a group of five inmates used the summer to repaint the playground set, a task that hadn't been done since the set was initially built.
"This program makes a difference and we are very appreciative of that," he added. "We just have to do it for the right reasons. The program isn't meant to save money, it's to give them the opportunity to work and to maintain or learn skills that can benefit them."
Hanneman said that she had recently visited Badger Park and was impressed by how nice it looks.
"That park is Peshtigo's gem," she said. "The inmates do take a certain pride in the work that they do. When they do a good job, I've noticed they have better self-esteem."
Hanneman added that working on these continuous community service projects give the inmates a better job outlook when their sentence ends.
"I've had three inmates who have worked with Goodwill offered jobs when they leave the jail and even if they don't accept those jobs, I would bet that they'd be able to obtain a recommendation," she said. "Not only does this program help with overcrowding by giving inmates the chance to work, but it also helps them move on afterwards."
Before the inmates are selected to join the program, they are screened for both medical and behavioral issues, as well as other guidelines they have to meet.
"It's hard right now to find suitable volunteers for the program," Hanneman said. "Many want to work but we can't allow them to because they are not eligible or because they have a medical condition."
Those who are given the all-clear are given lunch and their supervisor provides them a ride to the job site. Once there, the inmates have to follow rules such as staying within the designated work area and not receiving any visitation from friends or relatives during their work hours.
The supervisors are also given the list of rules and guidelines and make sure the inmates are doing the work given to them. For every three eight-hour work days they work, one day is taken off of their sentence.
"The only problem we've really had is a couple of inmates didn't want to do the work," Hanneman said. "If the inmate is lazy, the supervisor can say that they don't want to work with them anymore and they are taken off of the project."
Aside from that, Hanneman said she considers the program as very successful.
"It helps them give back to the community," she said. "Even the inmates who can work but aren't eligible for a shorter sentence take a certain pride in the work they've done."