Our View: Work program benefits inmates, community

The cost of incarcerating individuals can sometimes seem like a burden on taxpayers. In fact, there’s no question that balancing a budget for jails is a difficult issue for communities across the Commonwealth, Clark County included.

However, one program at the Clark County Detention Center aims to allow nonviolent offenders to give back to the community while earning some money and shortening their sentences through a work program.

Inmates who are part of the program work an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift doing jobs ranging from cleaning along roadways to planting and watering city plants and collecting garbage.

In the winter, inmates have been put to work assisting city crews with snow removal.

Inmates also work within the jail as a general maintenance crew that includes two members of the inmate work program. The group is the first to respond when lights go out, pipes get clogged or other general maintenance problems arise. While the jail contracts out for professional work when needed, many issues can be fixed simply by working with the inmates, some of whom have practical knowledge from their backgrounds as handymen or other trade workers.

Additionally, a crew of female inmates works regularly to clean and maintain the halls and lobby of the jail.

This program has benefits for the community, the jail and the inmates themselves.

It helps city, county and state government to reduce manpower costs for basic jobs like cleaning up litter, setting up tables for events and watering plants.

The program helps teach inmates about personal responsibility and imparts some skills they can use to find employment after they have served their time.

Those who volunteer for the program shorten their sentences through regular work and can earn up to $13 a month for being part of the work program. The money is deposited in their commissary accounts, which can be used to purchase things like snacks or toiletries.

And as one Clark inmate noted, the program offers some personal spiritual benefits for those who participate. They get to feel some personal pride by contributing to their community in a positive way and they also get to enjoy some fresh air, some physical activity and some cooperation with other inmates and people in the community.

Additionally, inmates included in the program are working towards a common cause, and when they’re busy it takes their minds off their current situation and promotes good behavior to keep participating.

In a time when prison reform is talked about heavily, small steps taken at the local level can have a big impact.

The goal of any program implemented in a jail or prison should be to make those service time a better person when they are released than when they became incarcerated, we believe the local inmate work program has the potential to do just that.