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Voluntary Inmate Work Program


The Johnson county Sheriff’s Office has launched a new Inmate Work Initiative for inmates held at the Johnson County Jail.  While inmates at the Johnson County Jail have long been used to complete miscellaneous tasks within thecountyJail, the new initiative is an expansion of the current practice and is modeled after similar programs across the nation.


 In an agreement between the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri Department of Transportation, inmates at the Johnson County Jail will be used in a litter control initiative designed to control litter along state, county, andU.S.highways withinJohnsonCounty. Under the agreement between the two agencies, inmate labor will be used to pick up litter and other debris along the roadways in an effort to help keepJohnsonCountylitter free. 


 The Missouri Department of Transportation will supply the program with a vehicle to haul litter and debris, trash bags, and portable toilet facilities for participating inmates. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office will make qualified inmates available for the initiative, and provide necessary safety equipment, tools, and transportation to and from the work sites.  Inmates participating in the program will remain under direct supervision of a Deputy Sheriff at all times.  Inmates participating in the effort will be provided with sack lunches, water, and first aid equipment if needed.


 The Inmate Work Initiative is completely voluntary and inmates wishing to participate must meet strict guidelines designed to determine fitness and compatibility.  In addition to these guidelines, each inmate must pass a medical screening before they are permitted to take part in the initiative. Inmates enrolled in the initiative that are serving a jail sentence are able to earn good time by participating.  This allows the inmate to actually reduce the number of days spent in jail.


 In a further expansion of the Inmate Work Initiative, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has recently begun a gardening program.  Under this program inmates are raising a variety of vegetables in several gardens located at the jail.  Each day inmates at the county jail tend to more than 500 different vegetable plants.  Inmates are currently raising tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Several of the gardening projects are located inside the security perimeter of the Johnson County Jail. This approach allows inmates who do not qualify for the Litter Control Program outside the jail facility to participate in the overall work initiative while remaining within the secured confines of the jail.


 The goal of the Inmate Work Initiative is three fold.  First, by providing inmates with an opportunity to participate in the Work Initiative, inmates in the county jail are able to make a positive contribution to the community while they are serving a jail sentence or awaiting trial.  Second, by growing fresh vegetables inmates are directly involved in our efforts to reduce food cost at the jail and lessen the burden on the tax paying citizens ofJohnsonCounty. And third, by keeping inmates engaged in productive activities, inmates are much less likely to become disciplinary problems while at the jail.  This creates an environment of enhanced security for the staff and the inmate population at the jail which in turn creates a safer and more productive jail facility for the community ofJohnsonCounty. 


 “ It has long been our desire to initiate such programs at the Johnson County Jail. In the past we have been limited by our facilities, but with the acquisition of the new jail facility here in Centerview, we are now able to transform these ideas into reality. While inmate work programs are not new and are widely used inAmerica,JohnsonCountyhas never before found itself in the position to undertake such efforts.  Initiatives such as the Inmate Work Initiative, and garden project have always been seen as having a positive impact on the community at large.  I am certain that such initiatives will be viewed in a positive light by our citizens as well.  It is important to stress that any cost associated with the Johnson County Inmate Work Initiative are paid by the inmates themselves through the Inmate Commissary Fund and the Law enforcement Restitution Fund, thereby eliminating the need to use budgeted funds from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office budget.”


Sheriff Charles M. Heiss