Many inmates who commit non-violent crimes are eligible for the Work in Lieu of Jail Program (WILOJ) in Washington County, Oregon. Inmates benefit from a program such as this as they can fulfill their sentencing during the weekend without having to clog up the criminal justice system – and the communities within Washington County get the use of inmate/workers to help with community projects.
Instead of spending 48 hours in jail, and costing tax-payers money to incarcerate them, selected inmates pay $25.00 per day to be part of the Work in Lieu of Jail Program, where their services are used for 8 hours each Saturday & Sunday to fulfill their sentence. Inmates get the self-satisfaction of feeling a great way to re-pay their debt to society for the crime committed. The $25.00 per day helps to pay for the cost of their supervision,workers insurance and transportation used to get the inmates to the work site.
These programs directly benefit both the inmate participants and the citizens of Washington County.
Work projects range from cleaning up trash along Washington County’s highways, repair work to local parks and schools to repairing and maintaining cemeteries. In addition to local county work programs, Washington County jail inmates can be eligible to work on federal and state projects. Some of these projects include working with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) clearing brush and debris from the roadsides. Recently, ODOT budget cuts have left many sections of roadside cluttered and overgrown.
With the help of the Work in Lieu of Jail Program, this important part of keeping roadsides clean and safe can be achieved. The inmates are carefully screened for reliability and trustworthiness. They must show that they are a low escape risk, willing to work off their sentence by helping with community projects rather than heading to jail. They must also have a history free of violent crimes.
Inmates involved in the Work in Lieu of Jail Program gain valuable work experience as well as learning teamwork, how to follow instructions, handle power equipment, forestry skills, and develop a strong work ethic. All of these skills can carry over into inmates working in the real world and becoming productive members of society.
Other correctional facilities should look to this Work in Lieu of Jail Program to help minimize jail costs to tax-payers and to help inmates learn valuable social and vocational skills.