4/14/2018 10:04:00 AM Sentence to Serve Sheriff's Corner
By Sheriff Tom Burch
A program within the Cass County Sheriff's Office that often doesn't get noticed but is very active and successful is the Sentence to Service Program (STS). STS is a program designed to enable low risk offenders to work on a Deputy supervised crew completing projects around the county to help work off Jail time and pay fines and fees associated with being sentenced to a crime or their stay in Jail. While many counties are doing away with the STS programs primarily due to costs, Cass County is happy to report that our STS program is thriving and completing thousands of dollars' worth of projects yearly. It offers nearly 100 offenders a year an opportunity to complete the program through restorative justice while learning skills and trade work.
Offenders eligible for the STS program are deemed to pose a minimal risk to public safety. Referrals are made through Court Administration, Jail programs and Probation offices, which may have additional eligibility requirements. The STS program is operated by the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Cass County. STS projects are not included in scheduled work by government agencies. The STS program is jointly financed by the DOC and participating counties. STS projects must consist of work that benefits the community as a whole and provides offenders with an opportunity to participate in suitable restorative justice practices. STS projects for State, Federal, local, and nonprofit agencies have included park and trail maintenance, highway litter pick-up, labor for school district projects, playground installation, construction and restoration of monuments, cemetery maintenance, senior citizen center and nursing home maintenance, snow removal, construction of access ramps for the disabled, and natural disaster response and cleanup. In addition to the benefits to the community, the program provides the opportunity for offenders to develop a work ethic and job skills. (MN DOC Fact Sheet)
Safety is a high priority. Crew leaders must be trained in CPR/first aid and attend yearly safety training. Crew leaders must provide safety training to crew members and instruct crew members in safety plans specific to the assigned project, including fall protection, use of personal protective equipment, and training on tools and equipment to be used. Offender injuries are covered under Minnesota Statue 3.739, which provides that the State of Minnesota accept responsibility for the cost of medical care if a crew member is injured while working on an STS crew. The statute also offers protection for project supervisors and/or crew leaders from liability or punitive damages if a crew member is injured or accidentally causes damage to property while working on the STS crew. Cass County has recognized the importance of safety with the crew and has utilized a licensed Deputy position as crew leader.
In 2017, 71 male offenders joined the crew and worked off $2,300 worth of fines and 171 days of Jail time; a total of 226 days were worked. In 2017, they completed 4,675 hours of work for the county, 411.5 hours for Minnesota DNR, 357.5 hours for cities, 171.1 hours for the Federal government, 61 hours for other state agencies, 51.5 hours for townships, eight hours for school districts and 1,404 hours for nonprofits.
The STS crew has completed several hours of work on courthouse campus related projects and other county projects at facilities and property throughout the county. Some of the work the crew completed was mowing and snow removal, construction and painting on the new fire hall and ambulance garages at Remer, painting the Walker Fire Hall and the new Walker Food Shelf, painting county equipment and helping the Walker and Longville food shelves move.
The STS program is always looking for new projects and ways to serve our communities. If your government, municipal, civic or church organization has an idea how the STS crew could help on your project, please contact our office and speak with Deputy Chad Emery.
If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: