Clearing Debris With Convicts, Not Contractors

Wednesday, February 13th 2008, 7:25 pm
By: News On 6

Cleaning up your yard after the ice storm may have seemed like punishment.  But Rogers County is using debris cleanup duty as a reward for well-behaved inmates.  The News On 6's Chris Wright reports the county has come up with a unique approach for removing all those downed limbs.

Like many areas in Green Country, Rogers County is still overwhelmed with tree limbs.  So now, the county is enlisting the help of inmates in order to speed up the cleanup.

Much of rural Rogers County is still littered with limbs.  But, contractors aren't the ones picking them up.  They're convicts.  County workers, aided by several inmates, have been cleaning up the debris for eight hours each day.

"It's not a chain gang punishment-type situation.  It is something that they look forward to.  They get out, get to work, get some fresh air, it's a good thing for them," said Rogers County Undersheriff Barry Lamb.

Rogers County Commissioners came up with the idea, and Undersheriff Barry Lamb signed off on it.  Still, the locals might not be too excited to see a group of inmates, especially ones without shackles, roaming their neighborhood.  The authorities believe there's nothing to worry about.

All the convicts chosen to do the debris cleanup have actually been hand-picked.  The sheriff's department says none are violent offenders, and they don't pose a risk to anyone while they're out doing the work.

The inmates cannot have any outstanding warrants in other counties.  They also must be sentenced to county jail time, and not be heading to the state penitentiary.  And, most importantly, they can't be a risk to run.

"We're not going to let anyone out we believe was an escape risk and has any history of any type of escape," said Rogers County Undersheriff Barry Lamb.

As a result, not many of the 188 inmates in Rogers County qualify for the work.  But, Undersheriff Lamb says that those who do are living up to their end of the bargain.

"We're getting real good reports back from the commissioners that the inmates are working hard, and doing a good job," said Rogers County Undersheriff Barry Lamb.

Rogers County Commissioners and law enforcement are convinced that the inmates are making a difference.  They say they will continue to use them until the cleanup is completed.