KENT COUNTY, Mich. - A new contract between the Kent County Sheriff's Department and the road commission will allow a team of inmates to work along the roads all year long.
The Sheriff's Work Crew is a team of men serving short sentences, for minor crimes, who are let out of jail every Monday-Friday before returning to their cells before sun down. The crews work nearly 40 hours a week picking up trash, mowing along guard rails, and clearing storm drains with the road commission.
Scott Swem, a Lieutenant at the jail said the work crew is an incentive for many inmates.
"They get better food out here and obviously they get out into the fresh air," said Lt. Swem.
The inmates are not getting paid but Lt. Swem said the county does waive their room and board fees for their incarceration. It's a cheaper, more efficient way to get the work done.
The men will log 16,000 hours this year, picking up more than 70,000 pounds of trash. And for the first time, a deputy will work through the entire year with a crew of inmates.
"It gives them something to do, gets them out of the jail, and it gets them into the community to do community service," said Lt. Swem. "We’re also saving the road commission money because of the man hours it would take for them to come out and do this."