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New Program Helps with Jail Population

A new program in Buchanan County is working to keep non-violent offenders from returning to jail.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) County inmates are helping to keep Buchanan County clean through a new program that keeps them out of jail by doing community service.

Inmates pick up trash throughout the county and help keep Lake Contrary clean to work off part of their sentence.

"We give them incentives to do right, to do community service, so that we don't have to spend so much money on building prisons and maintaining prisons," stated Circuit Judge Keith Marquart.

Since only non-violent and low-crime offenders qualify, Capt. Jody Hovey says it helps them adapt to life outside of jail a little bit easier.

"They get out there work and give them references and stuff so people know that they are willing and able to work," added Hovey.

Before the program started, the Buchanan County Jail housed 220 inmates. In the past few months, that number has dropped to about 180. Although court documents list about 180 inmates behind bars, Marquart says that number is actually lower.

"They have three cases pending they'll be in the jail three different times according to the computer. Also, there are many people who we list as being in jail who have been sent to prison because they are also serving a prison sentence along with waiting trial on other charges," added Marquart.

Inmates also work at the jail to pay off their debt. Hovey added, "If you're sentenced here you get what's called a board bill. You have to pay to stay here so much a day. Well, if they work while they're here they get that waived."

Judge Marquart hopes inmates learn from their experience so they never have to return. He says the county's overall appearance has improved because of the program.

"The Buchanan County roads probably haven't been cleaned in 30 years so we're getting things done that haven't been done before and I think it's just a positive approach to using inmates," added Marquart.

Since the program started, the county has recycled more than $300 worth of aluminum cans. They've also cleared nearly 1,000 bags of trash from roads.
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