Alternative sentencing saves Carroll $90,000

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Prisoners work in the county doing maintenance instead of going to jail.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Carroll’s day reporting program, the community service alternative to incarceration, has saved the county approximately $90,000 in its first 90 days, according to a report by Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan Lyons.
Twelve non-violent offenders have entered the day reporting program after their sentencing by the courts, Lyons told the Carroll supervisors at their Aug. 12 meeting.
One has already completed all the required community service, 10 continue their work and one has failed.
“The dollar amount that the county would [save] is a little over $90,000, based on those 12 individuals,” the commonwealth’s attorney said. “The sentences they had are anywhere from 60 days to up to 12 months of incarceration...”
In the first year of the program, Lyons expects day reporting to save the county as much as $300,000 in fees from people avoiding jail terms.
“We hope to keep around 30 folks in the program at any given time,” he said. “Whether we can do that or not — a lot of it’s up to the court, a lot of it’s up to who comes through the door.”
The program has one supervisor who is also a Carroll deputy.
Violent offenders cannot apply to be in day reporting. Lyons said he and Sheriff J.B. Gardner carefully screen the program participants, and past offenses can keep an applicant out of it.
“So far, we think it’s been a success,” the commonwealth’s attorney said. “I know maintenance would probably tell you it’s a big success.”
Instead of county workers with specializations in electrical or plumbing having to do grounds maintenance, they can now give those duties to the people in the day reporting program and get on with their own vital projects.
It looks like the cost savings to Carroll is more than enough to fund the program supervisor, Supervisors Chairman David Hutchins said.
If there’s no work for the participants to do, do they still have to report, Supervisor Sam Dickson asked.
Yes, Lyons answered. “We don’t want them to have idle hands.”
If Carroll doesn’t have anything for the participants to do, county officials have worked with Goodwill or the landfill to find some tasks.
Officials also take into consideration where the participant is coming from, Lyons added. They have found assignments in Galax — where Lyons serves as commonwealth’s attorney for the eastern portion of the city — for participants from Independence and Sparta, N.C.
Day reporting is designed to help the participants get skills and avoid becoming repeat offenders, Lyons said. The goal is to give them the skills and discipline so court officials don’t see them again.