Sheriff launches inmate work program.

May 8, 2018

Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast with inmates Jonickio Spears, Jesse Meyette, Tyler Brown and Marco Guerrero and Oceana County Drain Commissioner Michelle Martin.

Sheriff launches inmate work program.

#OceanaCountyNews

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast kicked off an inmate work program Tuesday, May 8, that gets inmates out of their jail cells and safely outside performing work that benefits the local community.

In exchange for their day of work, the inmates’ daily $25 housing fee is waived. “It’s not cheap to stay in jail,” Mast said.

Mast said he is not trying to take work away from local contractors, but is providing labor at a minimal cost for much-needed community projects.

The inmates were working on clearing brush and trash from a county drain off Union Street near Tri-Berry and Indian Summer Tuesday. “They’re very excited to do this,” Mast said of his work crew.

Mast and Oceana County Drain Commissioner Michelle Martin were working along with the four male inmates. Deputy Drain Commissioner John Warner also worked with the crew.

“I love it,” said Martin. The project will save the drain office both time and money, she said.

Mast said one officer will always be present with the three- or four-men work crews. Inmates chosen to perform work are non-violent and non-sexual offenders. Each inmate must sign an affidavit promising not to escape and warning them that if they attempt to, they will be charged with a felony.

The concept is somewhat similar to the chain gangs of the early 1900s, but in this case the inmates are not chained together and the labor is not meant as a form of punishment.

The inmates will take on other community projects, such as cleaning township cemeteries and county parks.

“It’s been very well-received by the county board of commissioners,” Mast said.

“It’s good to get out of there and help the community,” said inmate Marco Guerrero. “I plan to do this whenever they want us to work.”

“This is a lot better than being locked in a cell,” said inmate Jonickio Spears. “We’re helping the community and the environment.”

Sheriff Mast also resurrected the K-9 unit at the sheriff’s office after taking over leadership of the department at the beginning of 2017.

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