Program keeps convicts at jobs
Some individuals who have been sentenced to serve time at the Southwest Multi County Correction Center in Dickinson are given the opportunity to hold a job. The facility has a work release program which allows many inmates to leave the jail to go to work, said Ken Rooks, operations administrator for the SWMCCC.
"If we have an individual who has a job, and let's say he's doing a short period of time, it would not be probably advantageous to the community or to his family or to himself to lose his job," Rooks said.
Eight out of the 45 adults at the SWMCCC are on the work release program, he added.
"If the court says they cannot participate in the work release program, we won't allow it, but otherwise, anybody that's sentenced is allowed to participate," Rooks said.
Work release programs are implemented in most correction facilities in the state, Rooks said.
Inmates can walk, drive or catch a ride to their jobs from SWMCCC.
"Basically they have to go to their assigned area at an assigned time and if they walk they have to take a specific route that's set up for them so we can check on them," Rooks said. "If there's any change in their job or hours or anything, they provide schedules and notification of change and if they don't -- say they go to their residence and they're supposed to be at work -- that's a violation."
Work release inmates do not have to wear any kind of tracking device, but their employers must call when they arrive at work, Rooks said.
William Wedemeyer, an inmate at SWMCCC serving a year for terrorizing, preventing arrest and simple assault, thinks the program is a good idea.
"All criminals should have the opportunity, regardless, to try to rebuild their lives, and it's a great program for that purpose," Wedemeyer said.
However, he feels he's been discriminated against because his work release privileges were pulled.
"What happened is a lady at work said that she was assaulted and that me and two other managers were drinking," Wedemeyer said.
He said neither allegation is true.
"I need to pay $500 in back child support and fines and probationary fees ... and they don't want to let me work," Wedemeyer said.
He also failed a breath test, but said it was because he was chewing alcohol-flavored tobacco.
"I got one write-up and everything was taken away. I was put into treatment and on medications and deemed a threat to society," Wedemeyer said. "This is not a thing of public safety, this is straight-up discrimination."
He also is upset that sex offenders can be out on work release when his was pulled.
Inmates' criminal history is taken into consideration when allowing them to be on work release, Rooks said.
"We're going to look at their options and hopefully place them in a position that's not going to put us or themselves at risk," Rooks said.
Wedemeyer is now eligible for work release, but he said SWMCCC won't let him work with the public anymore.
Rooks said the SWMCCC deals with about one work release violation a month.
"We get several individuals that violate their contract and normally, if it's not too severe -- say they go visit their wife wherever, which they're not allowed to do -- we may pull them from work for two weeks or 30 days and then we allow them to go back out," Rooks said. "If they violate again, then we're more strict with it."
Inmates have escaped while out on work release, but Rooks said that hasn't happened in over five years.
The correction center charges inmates $15 for each day of work to help for the program and housing, Rooks said. That is the maximum amount allowed by legislature for work release, he added.
It costs about $60 a day to incarcerate a person, Rooks added.
"For the community, in the long run, if you have an individual who has a job and you put them in jail and he loses his job, it's probably going to cost us more in the long run by the time he's out," Rooks said. "We definitely want to see people paying their fines, paying their child support and having a job, so it doesn't cost the tax payers more money when they get out."