From cleaning up roadsides to helping pick up after an On The Waterfront fireworks display, the prisoner work groups have completed at least 44,000 hours of community work. But now that program is being cut.
The Prisoner Work Group Program saves the county at least $400,000 doing jobs basically for free. Jobs, such as cleaning up the side of a road. But an overcrowded jail, a shortage of guards and a major budget cut has forced this program to be shut down.
The Winnebago County Jail is overflowing with prisoners. Total capacity is 393 inmates, but right now the jail holds 604 prisoners. Sheriff dick Meyers says he needs every available guard he has inside the main jail.
Since the work crews cannot go unsupervised, organizations such as the Hunger Connection and the Highway Department will have to look elsewhere to find the help they need. But Sheriff Meyers says they understand.
Sheriff Meyers says this decision is not permanent and if he can, he will reinstate the program. But for now it has to take a second seat to his main priority, which he says is having his officers in the jails and patrolling the streets.