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Carroll sees pros of putting cons to work

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Convicts will be put to work through a new day reporting program that will save the county money.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Day reporting is kind of like a temp service through the courts, and Carroll County’s new coordinator is looking for tasks for convicts who qualify.
Day reporting is an alternative sentencing option that keeps those convicted of minor crimes from going to jail if they agree to do community service instead.
Glenn Edmonds, a Carroll deputy who has served as a bailiff in the courts, will now coordinate the program for the county. He started in this new capacity March 1.
People convicted of minor offenses — not violent or sexual-related crimes — would be able to avoid jail time by agreeing to do day reporting.
“The circuit court judge and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, they’re going to make the decisions to assign people to this program,” Edmonds said. “It’s an alternative means of punishment for first-time offenders and non-violent offenders.”
He could see people convicted of offenses like shoplifting or embezzling being able to stay out of jail by doing various kinds of jobs in the community, if they qualify.
Participants would take on community service or do work for non-profits. Edmonds can’t assign anybody to work in any for-profit ventures or assignments that would benefit any one person.
Picking up trash on roadsides will likely be something that day reporting workers have to take on, but Edmonds is looking for other opportunities, as well.
“There’s going to be rainy days,” he noted. “There’s going to be cold, snowy days. We’re going to try to broaden our outlook and find indoor things.”
Participants have to be drug- and alcohol-free while in the program, and if they commit any new offenses they can’t stay in the program.
The participants sign an agreement to take on jobs and to complete them without any direct supervision from the coordinator, unlike work programs through the jail.
“If they don’t do what’s expected of them, they’ll be removed from the program,” Edmonds said.
Ideas he will explore include painting, lawn care and other maintenance around the Carroll County Governmental Center. The coordinator also wants to find non-profit work, like serving at a food kitchen.
Other suggestions that have been floated include cleaning up roadside dumps, washing windows, filing and washing buses.
He will look for work opportunities around Carroll County and Hillsville, as well as Galax.
Unemployed persons who enter day reporting would work 40 hours a week for their community service, while those who have full-time jobs would work around 10 hours a week.
Edmonds expects to stay busy with coordinating the program, but he could still answer law enforcement calls, too.
“This is a new program that we’re very excited about — this is going to allow us to give people an alternative means, so we don’t have to pay for so many people to be in the regional jail,” Edmonds said. “This is going to save the taxpayers a lot of money.”
Carroll County officials engaged in the budget process for fiscal year 2013-14 will include $100,000 in savings from keeping people out of the jail through day reporting.
It costs the county $29.50 per day per inmate to send people to the New River Valley Regional Jail.
Carroll Sheriff J.B. Gardner noted that Grayson County saved more than $80,000 in nine months after implementing a day reporting program of its own.
“Our court system is much busier than the one in Grayson County,” he said.
He expects that the savings in Carroll will definitely fund the day reporting coordinator’s position and get some work done, too.
“I’m excited because it might save this county money,” the sheriff said.

Those with ideas about possible projects for day reporting workers can call Edmonds at (276) 728-4146 or 236-5119.