Work release program giving second chances at jail | News


CATLETTSBURG At one point in time, Randi Carr was about six years sober.

The Scioto County native was working in recovery and at a pizza shop when the pandemic hit — the isolation led to slippery people, and those slippery people led to slippery places and before she knew it, Carr said she was using again.

Having been in and out of jail, Carr said she found herself in the Boyd County Detention Center on third-degree burglary charges, after she got caught at a local Walmart trying to shoplift.

“This is where I ended up,” she said. “I think idle time is the devil’s time and that’s what led me back into that old way of living.”

Now convicted and serving her state time — third-degree burglary is a class D felony — at the local jail, Carr is getting a shot at a second chance by being one of the first inmates to participate in the work release program.

“I love it, it’s been an amazing opportunity,” she said “This will help a lot of people out because it gives people like me a fresh start.”

And this isn’t convicted felons stamping license plates — the work release program is a way for inmates serving state time to build up a nest egg and reintegrate into society, according to Jailer Bill Hensley.

Hensley said he first got interested in the program after a deputy jailer’s brother was held at the Simpson County Detention Center.

“We couldn’t hold him here for obvious reasons, so we had to transfer him up there,” Hensley said. “His brother did work release at a duct tape factory. When he was released, he had paid off all his court fees and costs and he’d saved up $41,000. He got an apartment, is still working there and is doing great.”

Hensley said under the program, state inmates meeting certain qualifications — such as the nature of their charges (non-violent), possessing or working towards a GED or high school diploma and getting life skills through Moral Reconation Therapy offered at the jail — can interview with interested employers.

Last week, some employers came to the jail and set up a job fair, interviewing 14 inmates who were ready for employment.

Out of the 14, eight were hired on the spot, according to Hensley.

Carr was one of the lucky ones — she’s now working at a Giovanni’s in Ashland as a cook and occasional dishwasher.

“I couldn’t ask for a better job,” she said. “Nobody treats me any different for being an inmate, nobody looks down on me. It’s a really great opportunity.”

The employer will pay the inmate via direct deposit the same as any other employee, Hensley said.

“They must pay the same wage, they can’t pay them less because they’re an inmate,” Hensley said.

The money is placed in a bank account which is co-signed by the jail. Fifty-five dollars is taken out of the check to go towards administering the program and if any child support is owed money is taken out as well.

Hensley said he highly encourages the inmates to pay their court costs, but they are not legally obligated to. While a little bit of money can be placed on their books for commissary, the main idea is to build up some funds to facilitate a transition back into society, Hensley said.

“One of the problems we see is when they leave here, they end up sleeping on a friend’s couch who is using,” he said. “That gets them back into it and before you know it, they’re back here.”

Sgt. Donald Rucker, who oversees the program, said he sees both ends of it when he moonlights as an EMT.

“I see both sides of it — some of these guys get out and I find them dead or OD’ing,” he said. “Anything we do to break this cycle is a good thing.”

Most employers are applicable for the program, with the exception of those who sell substances such as alcohol or tobacco, workplaces that provide child care such as daycare centers or schools, out-of-state employers and businesses that sell weapons.

Once the inmate has served their time and is released back into society, they either cash out the bank account or keep it and have the jail drop of it.

When asked if there’s any concern about a former inmate — many of which have struggled with drugs — taking the money and putting it into their arm, Hensley said the jail can only do so much.

“We can provide the tools and show them how to use the tools, but it’s their responsibility at the end of the day,” Hensley said. “I will say this — if our programs only turn 10 out of 100 people into responsible and productive members of society, then it’s worth it.”

Any employers who might be a good fit for the work program may call the Boyd County Detention Center at (606) 739-4224 or email Rucker at [email protected].

Rucker said he will work with employers and come out to them at their convenience to share more information.

As for Carr, she said when she is released in the next few weeks, she intends to keep her job at the restaurant.

“They asked me if I was going to quit as soon as I got released and I said no,” she said. “This is a new start for me. It’s easier to stay clean away from my old environment, around people who are like-minded in recovery.”

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