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Inmate Trustee Labor Program Saves Culpeper County Taxpayers About $500,000 Each Year

Did you know that through our inmate trustee program, inmate labor saved Culpeper County nearly $500,000.00 (or more) in labor costs last year? Here’s how it works.

Inmates at the Culpeper County Jail apply to become inmate workers and are subject to a background check by Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office Jail staff. Current and prior offenses are taken into account before the inmate is cleared to work. Eligibility is based on a number of other factors as well. Jail deputies pay attention to which individuals are considered “model inmates.” Typically they have a record of good behavior in jail and are respectful to other inmates, sworn officers and civilian personnel.

To participate in the trustee program, inmates must sign an extradition waiver form. If they try to escape to another state, they have already agreed to be extradited back to Virginia. They also have to agree to refrain from breaking laws, making threats or leaving assigned duties, among other rules.

Just as with any group of people, our inmates come from all walks of life. To match inmates to jobs, jail staff check whether the inmate has a particularly helpful skill. Some have skilled trades experience, such as in carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and HVAC work. Others have experience in an occupation or profession such as in the restaurant or landscaping industries. Still others may have no formal training or experience but have displayed the good behavior, work ethic, and other traits that qualify them for this program.

Last year our inmate trustees worked more than 48,000 hours, providing taxpayers a savings of more than $480,000.00 in wages alone. This wage savings estimate is very conservative. It assumes a $10 per hour wage and does not calculate the higher wage value of our inmate trustees with skilled trades and other experience. Changing those factors would result in a much higher savings to county taxpayers.

Under deputy supervision, our inmate trustees work janitorial duties, culinary, roadside trash pickup, laundry, maintenance, and grass cutting at Sheriff’s Office facilities. Numbers vary from year to year, but generally speaking as a group about a third of their total hours are spent working jail janitorial duties, and a third are spent working jail culinary duties. The remaining third is divided among laundry, maintenance, and roadside trash pickup.

The inmate trustee program has many benefits beyond the nearly half million dollars in Culpeper County taxpayer annual savings. Since it is a privilege, not a right, it gives inmates an incentive to work toward. It provides workforce training and builds re-entry skills. It enhances inmate morale through a sense of accomplishment. It increases community connectedness as inmates recognize the contributions they make to the community. It helps inmates develop or maintain a record of accountability. For some inmates, it provides training for something different than the activity that led to their incarceration in the first place. This helps with rehabilitation.

The inmate trustee program at the Culpeper County Jail is a privilege for the inmates, one that is popularly sought after. It saves county taxpayers in the neighborhood of a half million dollars in taxpayer money per year, conservatively speaking. It provides needed services to our jail and our community, and numerous benefits to its participants. It is a win-win-win, one that we think makes a better experience for all involved.

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