By CHRIS MUELLER
Stevens Point Journal
STEVENS POINT, Wis. (AP) — Zachariah Reynolds tries to stay busy washing dishes or doing other menial jobs.
He has a few months to go before he gets out of the Portage County Jail and tries to the pass the time any way he can, so he volunteers to work in the kitchen at the jail, and looks for other jobs when he gets a chance, the Stevens Point Journal reported. That’s why he was glad to be asked to help pick up trash Friday morning along State 54 west of the village of Plover with five other inmates.
“It’s nice to get out, I know that,” he said. “It’s good that they asked.”
The county on Friday kicked off its plan to have inmate work crews toil away at public projects such as picking trash from roadside ditches, cleaning parks or chopping firewood, according to Portage County Sheriff Mike Lukas.
Inmates need to volunteer to be part of the program and only those who would already be eligible for work-release would be allowed to participate, Lukas said.
“They’re not our high-risk, maximum-security inmates,” he said. “We’re not going to do that.”
It’s not clear how frequently inmates will be used to do jobs in the county because that’s largely going to depend on how often the jail has enough inmates able to take part, Lukas said. The inmates who are allowed to participate would also be able to get out of jail for part of the day if they had a job or other responsibilities, such as school or child care.
Inmates aren’t chained together — this isn’t “Cool Hand Luke” — but they’re required to wear orange vests and are always supervised by sheriff’s deputies. Drivers shouldn’t stop or slow down if they’re passing by an area where inmates are working, Lukas said.
“We don’t know if somebody is trying to pick somebody up,” he said.
Lukas said he’ll determine which chores the inmates can do after he checks with other county departments to see if they have work that needs to be done.
Inmates will get extra credit toward their sentences for the time they spend working, Lukas said. Inmate work crews aren’t all that common in Wisconsin because it’s often difficult to provide clothing to inmates if they’re working during the winter, but they are common in other states, Lukas said.
Reynolds, 29, who was locked up after violating his probation, was excited to be working outside and helping his own cause.
“I’m working off time with this,” he said. “I’m hoping to get out before Christmas.”