As Pulaski County officials consider potential facilities upgrades, Sheriff Jeff Richwine says an inmate work release facility should remain part of the discussion.
“That’s something that we had worked pretty hard on, was in the basement of the jail, turning that into a work release center,” he told the county council Monday. “Part of that, they pay their work release fees, pays for their food and all the stuff that they get for the jail. So I’m hoping that, somewhere in this process, we don’t forget that.”
The work release center was part of the facilities proposal presented back in December. At the time, Maintenance Director Jeff Johnston described it as a revenue-generating opportunity, since it would free up more of the traditional jail cells to house federal inmates. But opposition to demolishing the Pulaski County Courthouse and concerns about the cost of adding onto the Justice Center have led county officials to reconsider that plan.
Richwine said that while he understands the county’s financial challenges, not treating jail inmates with drug issues also has a cost. “It’s obvious that just throwing them in jail and letting them sit there doesn’t solve that problem for them,” he said. “It looks like there’s all kinds of work release programs where they can at least keep their job and be monitored at night and all those things that these people need to help them with getting off the drugs.”
But the sheriff said there’s also a human side to the county’s response to the drug epidemic. “I had a mother sitting across from me – and you watch these families that go through having somebody that’s addicted to drugs – I was just talking to her, and I said, ‘Man, I can’t imagine sitting every night at home and you get that phone call, “Is this the phone call that my kid’s dead, or something like that?”’ And this mother told me, she said, ‘I wish I would get that call.’ And I thought, ‘My God, what has she went through to be able to say that?'”
Richwine said the county’s judges seem to recognize that treatment is a viable option and appear to be on-board with potential programs. Council Member Kathi Thompson recommended that Richwine discuss the importance of a work release center with Rowland Design, when the architectural firm gets to work on an updated facilities plan.