For almost 20 years, Wright County has utilized an innovative program to make use an unlikely workforce – prisoners housed in the Wright County Jail.
The Sentence-to-Service (STS) program was initially started in Wright County as a way to get projects completed while using the enticement of having days knocked off of jail sentences for each day worked. At the time, Wright County was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year transporting prisoners to other counties because their own jail, housed at the county courthouse in downtown Buffalo, was filled to capacity and beyond. With the new county jail, that is no longer an issue but the county still takes advantage of the program.
Captain Pat O’Malley of the sheriff’s department came before the Wright County Board of Commissioners at its April 11 meeting to present a two-year contract between the county and the state to fund the STS program. 75 percent of the STS work done has to be for the county, typically with the highway or parks departments and special projects like work at the County Fairgrounds. The other 25 percent can be outside work, typically work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources or specific city projects.
O’Malley said the total work performed by the STS crew in 2016 came out to $13 an hour – still a good bargain for the manual labor being done, but the impetus to keep prisoners engaged in the program has changed.
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