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Sheriff’s work program cleans up
by Garrett Valenzuela
Aug 22, 2012 | 2230 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Non-violent inmate workers clean the landscape Wednesday behind Shaw Middle School in Spanish Springs as part of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Community Work Program. Crews from the program will be cleaning local campuses in preparation for students and administrators return to school.
Non-violent inmate workers clean the landscape Wednesday behind Shaw Middle School in Spanish Springs as part of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Community Work Program. Crews from the program will be cleaning local campuses in preparation for students and administrators return to school.
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SPARKS — When driving through the Reno-Sparks community, you can often spot a Washoe County Sheriff’s Office van pulling a small trailer with gardening tools poking out the top. You may have seen orange-vested workers lining the roadsides and riverbanks tending to unsightly weeds and brush.

Washoe County Sheriff’s Office has been supplying community workers for more than 10 years, and Wednesday, program supervisor Michael Sherak brought a crew to Shaw Middle School in Spanish Springs for back-to-school landscape duty.

Sherak’s crews logged 8,200 hours working in the community in 2011-2012. He said the department is likely to surpass that mark by the end of their 2012-2013 campaign.

“I think some of the reason is that schools don’t know they can use this program and word is catching on,” Sherak said. “We are here for them and we can supply them anywhere from six to eight men to do the work that one person is doing right now.”

Sherak said the crew at Shaw on Wednesday was comprised of non-violent inmates, who are serving a sentence at the county jail and meet the low-risk requirements needed to work in the community. Crews are also made up of community service workers whose labor serves to pay fines and fulfill required service hours.

Sherak said his crews will be visiting several school campuses this week in time to clean the grounds before students and administrators officially return.

“It keeps our campuses looking great,” he said. “Perception is everything and if you drive by a school that is in shambles you are going to have that negative outlook toward it. It’s a reflection of the district and the department.”

The benefits of the Community Work Program also extend to the non-violent inmates who are able to reduce their sentence time and be out in the community. Sherak said the opportunity to be classified as non-threatening will boost inmates morale significantly.

“These guys look forward to doing this because it beats sitting in a housing unit all day doing nothing,” he said. “Keeping the inmates busy means they are not going to get in trouble.”

Given current county budget concerns, the Community Work Program has been a low-cost alternative to hiring optional crews for the landscaping and maintenance work. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the sheriff’s office estimates a savings of $1,860,199 in labor costs.

In addition to saving the county money, Sherak said providing a public image that is unassociated with common sheriff’s office stereotypes, such as “cops being bad guys,” helps the whole department appeal to the community.

“There can be a negative side to law enforcement and this program shows the department continually contributes to the community,” he said. “We do other things than book and house criminals and investigate crimes. There is a whole other side to it and I am glad to be a part of it.”
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