The Botetourt community will experience the benefits of the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Inmate Work Crew Program, when the inmate trusties install 60 trees for the First Bank Tinsel Trail, slated to open December 3 in Fincastle. The trees are being decorated by area businesses to celebrate the Christmas holiday, showcase their businesses, and attract tourists to the historic Town of Fincastle.
Deputy Jonathan Mason of the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office is supervising the trusties as part of a new program which pairs trusted inmates with outdoor work. Deputy Mason is very committed to the program, which started in 2020 under an initiative by Sheriff Matt Ward to offer a way for the Sheriff’s Department to better serve the community.
The trusties earn $1 a day toward reducing their court fines, feel productive by contributing to the community, and benefit from an outdoor environment. Deputy Mason notes, “Time passes more quickly for them when they are busy.” The trusties find the work fulfilling and Deputy Mason has heard from families of inmates that the program is beneficial to their loved ones.
Selection into the program is closely monitored, with safety being a key component –safety for the community, and for the inmates by selecting projects that are manageable. The trusties work their way into the program after successfully completing internal work programs, such as kitchen duty and custodial tasks and eventually, if they are interested, may be considered for participation in the outdoor program. Eligible inmates have no violent offenses, and have achieved trusty status, with a history of good behavior in the jail while performing other internal work duties.
The selected inmates are further reviewed and approved by the State Department of Corrections before they are assigned to outdoor duties. Deputy Mason emphasizes that these “select inmates are people that want to do better while they are incarcerated, and this program offers them a chance to work toward that goal. The inmates are mostly local, and usually have family in the community that care about them.”
As of January 1 of this year, the work crew program completed 100 miles of clean up along county roads. The projects included such tasks as grounds keeping, janitorial sanitation, litter pick-up (VDOT), VDOT contract work, and snow and ice removal. This is the first year they added VDOT-funded projects to the program.
Sheriff Ward said, “The intent of our Inmate Work Crew Program has always been to benefit both our community and the inmates who will eventually transition back into society. The program gives us the opportunity to provide necessary services to the county and address maintenance tasks throughout our community that may otherwise go unaddressed. The inmates who participate in the program benefit from a sense of purpose, personal responsibility, and pride in a job well done. Once they serve their time, it is in our best interest that they desire to become productive members of our community. This is what our program is all about. Deputy Mason has done an exceptional job managing the Inmate Work Crew Program, balancing requests for services, time and our commitments to required maintenance tasks.”
Khari Ryder, executive director of the Botetourt Chamber of Commerce, is pleased to have this partnership with the Sheriff’s Office, “This is a great program and a great collaboration of the Chamber with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Department. We look forward to more partnerships together with them on projects that will benefit the Botetourt community and our businesses!”
The opening of the First Bank Tinsel Trail will take place on Friday, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Fincastle. More information can be found at the Botetourt Chamber of Commerce’s website at www.botetourtchamber.com.
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