BCSO seeks funds to allow inmates to serve on work details

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office is seeking funds to allow Blue Ridge Regional Jail inmates to form clean-up work details along highways in the county.
    According to Major Ricky Gardner, the inmates won’t get any reduction in their sentences for participating. It will, however, give them a chance to get outside for some fresh air and perform a community service. He said that people incarcerated for misdemeanor offenses already get “good time” credit for good behavior and inmates who are behavior problems in the jail won’t be eligible for the work details.    
    These will all be low risk people, according to Maj. Gardner. Only people who were convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor offense will be eligible. There won’t be any felons or sex offenders among them.
    They will also be inmates who have been pre-approved by judges. Major Gardner said that they have talked to Circuit Court Judge James Updike, General District Court Judge Harold Black and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Louis Harrison.
    “All three thought it’s a good program,” said Maj. Gardner.
    The inmates will also have to volunteer for it.
    Maj. Gardner said that the work details will be coordinated with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). VDOT will provide the trash bags and collect the bags once they are filled. VDOT is also willing to alert the Sheriff’s Office to problem areas.
    “I don’t think we are going to have difficulty finding problem areas in the county,”  Gardner said.
    One problem area is on Va. 43, south of Bedford. Gardner said that some people hauling trash to the county landfill in pick-up trucks don’t secure their loads and trash blows out of their trucks. He suspects many of these people don’t care, although he notes that a judge can make them care. A deputy just has to catch them.
    Gardner said that, for security reasons, the details won’t go to the same spot two times in a row and the inmates won’t know where they are going on any particular day until they get there.
    The Sheriff’s Office is asking the Board of Supervisors to budget $30,000 for this project. A deputy, who will be paid at the off duty rate of $30 per hour, will pick up the inmates from the Blue Ridge Regional Jail, supervise them during the work details, and bring them back to the jail. The maximum time they will be out on any one day is six hours. Gardner said the amount of funds being sought will be enough to provide a deputy for a maximum of three details a week, 48 weeks a year. The actual amount of time could be less, depending on the number of inmates available and the weather. Other costs will include work boots, hard hats and traffic vests for the inmates to wear while working.
    “It’s going to be an important service for the citizens of the county,” Gardner said.