Work crew program serves the community

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Rain, shine or stormy weather, it’s not uncommon to see the white “Offender Work Crew” van parked at a variety of locations around Camas and Washougal on an almost daily basis.

The participants are “doing time” clearing blackberry vines from walkways, cleaning up downed branches after storms, picking up litter, and maintaining area trails, in addition to a variety of other tasks.

These men and women who have committed non-violent crimes in our communities are “working off” their sentences instead of spending time behind bars.

The program, started in Camas in 2000, literally saves thousands of dollars in costs that would normally be incurred when an individual goes to jail. That’s not to mention money saved by having these projects completed by offenders, instead of by city employees whose time is better spent completing other duties.

While the program has certainly been successful over the years, Police Chief Mitch Lackey recently proposed implementing a fee intended to keep offenders from backing out of work crew, and subsequently going back through the municipal court process, and most likely eventually spending time in jail.

Of the 372 offenders who joined the work crew in 2010, 95 of them failed to comply with the terms of their sentence to the program.

Given these numbers, a $20 fee makes a whole lot of sense, and any incentive that would make the innovative and useful offender work crew program even more successful, and save the taxpayers money along the way is a worthwhile endeavor.