Some Central Virginia Regional Jail (CVRJ) inmates are getting a head start thanks to the jail’s work release program.

The program allows non-violent inmates to be released during the day to either be picked up or transported to a work facility, returning to the jail at the end of the workday. Those in the program are compensated through an allowance with the remainder being used for costs defraying the program as well as any imposed fines and restitutions.

According to Second Lieutenant Warren Powers, the program makes a difference in the lives of those enrolled in it and is a vital part of the jail’s reentry program. The jail currently works with seven employers with employees making anywhere between $7.25 and $15 per hour. He said employers in the program are pleased because they want employees who will show up willing to work, can pass a drug test and are regularly tested—all of which work release inmates do. Powers said inmates in the program want to be at work. He said many continue to work at their work release jobs after they’ve been released from jail.

“They’re able to pay off their fines, costs and restitution, plus offer better support for their families and earn funds to start a new life after being released,” Powers said.

He said in many cases, those in the program have been in jail for as long as 10 years and their families have moved on, so the funds earned in the work release program help them to setup their lives when they get out.

Elizabeth Walters, human capital manager at Bingham & Taylor which is one of the work release employers, conveyed the company’s appreciation for the program. In a letter to the jail, she wrote that the program has been a “real asset” with a number of work release workers doing an excellent job. She wrote that inmate Roger Browning has been employed at the company through the program since June 26, 2017 and has continued to maintain his employment more than 14 months after his release from the jail. She wrote that Sean Brooks is another, having worked with the company for more than a year, including since his release in May. David Cronk is another employee who started as part of the program in November 2018 and has continued his employment since his February release.

Gus Pearson of Builders FirstSource echoed Walters’ sentiments.

“It is accurate to say we have had nothing but positive experiences with the program,” he wrote. “Every person we have had assigned here has been eager to learn and has had positive attitudes about being here. Our other employees also enjoy working with them. I feel that each has had a positive impact on the other.”

Pearson pointed out several employees with the program including Jason Blake who he said has had several promotions since beginning employment in February. Travis Lincoln also started in February and has been promoted several times, Pearson said. David Ryder and Geoffrey James also started in February. Both are in line for promotions.

“Everyone here is very much in favor of the program,” Pearson added. “I can’t say enough about it.”

The Town of Orange also employs inmates through the work release program. Assistant director of public works Larry Bond said three employees have secured work with the town beyond their jail release, one of whom has been employed since April 2016.

Rigid Products is also an employer in the program. Human resources manager Rosa Brookman wrote that employees through the program have played a key role in staffing the company, some of whom have remained on the staff.

“We feel that your program is a success story for us,” she wrote. “The employees have come to us with good attitudes and an eagerness to work.”

Powers said the program has a very high success rate. Currently, there is an average of 20-30 inmates in the program monthly. Those in the program are comprised of both local inmates and department of corrections (DOC) inmates.

Powers said DOC is impressed that the program has led to building a career path for offenders returning to society and that they are able to excel in their jobs while incarcerated. Even so, he said he plans to continue to work hard to make the program a frontrunner in the state.

“We want them to succeed so they don’t return to jail,” Powers said.

Jail superintendent Frank Dyer said unfortunately, even with the program, there are still those who will get out and end up back in jail.

“It isn’t a magic fix, but it does give a way for inmates to pay fines and have money to stand on [when released],” he said.

“What better motivator than a job you’re doing good with,” Madison County Supervisor and jail authority member Kevin McGhee said.

Orange County Supervisor and jail authority vice chairman Jim Crozier said the local workforce center also works to get inmates jobs upon release.

“Inmates have become some of the best employees,” he said.

Dyer said the jail works with the reentry council in Louisa as well as a reentry council in Madison that was formed last year. He said the biggest obstacles for inmates upon release are finding a place to stay and transportation. He said there are a couple of homes in Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia, but unless inmates can get there, it is what it is.

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