Wyo. sheriff lacks funds to expand jail inmate work program
Typically, 25-30 inmates work at the jail, and the program has paid off by saving the county $30,000-$50,000 per month
By Katie Kull
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Laramie County Sheriff Danny Glick said he’d love to expand a program that allows low-risk inmates from the Laramie County Detention Center to do volunteer work in the county.
But he’ll need more money and manpower to do it.
The proposal would allow low-risk inmates to volunteer to help out in the community, much like a program launched in 2014 that allowed some inmates to help out at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.
But the shelter trips have been temporarily suspended due to a lack of staff. And expanding the program would require more time and money, Glick said.
“Right now, we don’t have the manning for (expansion), and the funding is going to be substantial,” Glick said.
They also need judges to help. Inmates must be sentenced to participate in the programs, so the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department would need the courts’ cooperation to expand their reach.
But the Sheriff’s Department has some experience on its side: Some inmates are already working inside the detention center in downtown Cheyenne, said Capt. Mike Sorenson, the jail’s facility administrator.
Those workers are identified as low-risk and are put to work in the facility on a volunteer basis.
They bake, cook, clean, do laundry and assist in other areas of the jail with limited supervision.
“We look at that as job training,” Sorenson said. “(And) they get incentives for doing the work.”
Workers can receive perks such as in-person visits with friends and family instead of video conferences; coffee and other beverages; more phone use; and, in some cases, time off their sentences, Sorenson said.
Inmates also can receive certificates for skills such as baking to help them get a job when they’re released.
Typically, 25-30 inmates work at the jail, and the program has paid off by saving the county $30,000-$50,000 per month, Glick and Sorenson said.
While the in-jail program has had success, the two men acknowledge it’s a longer road to get inmates out into the community.
Glick said they’d start by looking at similar programs that have worked in other counties across the region. Once that was complete, they’d speak with judges and make safety plans.
“We also can’t go into competition with local business or local enterprise,” Glick said.
Then there’s the man-power, the budget and the interest.
But Glick said he’s up to the task.
“Our goal is to ultimately get inmates back out into the community,” Glick said. “We have really stepped forward in trying to use alternatives to incarceration.”
©2017 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)