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Minnesota program helps inmates chip away at fines

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Detroit Lakes, MN (WDAY TV) - Some inmates in the Becker County jail don't have to wait until they're released to start chipping away at their fines.

It's part of a Minnesota program that helps get them back into the community.

Percy French/Becker County Inmate: "It gets pretty boring in there, that's for sure."

Five days a week this crew of inmates get out of jail to stretch their limbs and do various jobs around the county. Today they're sorting recyclables at the Becker County transfer facility.

For Percy French from White Earth, it's a chance to start working off jail related costs.

French: "The sooner we get our fines paid off, you know, and the sooner we get into our communities, we can actually start looking for housing and gain employment."

Inmates can earn as much as $8 an hour and typically work 40 hour weeks.

Jail administrator Randy Hodgson says, aside from the financial benefits, the program can also help with morale.

Randy Hodgson/Becker County Jail Administrator: "It gives the inmates something to do other than sit around, it gives them a feeling of self-worth, makes them feel good at the end of the day when they get a pretty big job done."

Through this program, inmates are basically able to work a full-time job. This is great for them as well as the people they're working for.

Steve Skoog/Becker County Environmental Services Director: "They do very good work, they're conscientious, they come here, they appreciate it and we appreciate it, it's a good thing."

Officials say they've saved a lot of money on labor since they started using the inmates at the transfer facility in 2011.

The crews also do work for non-profits.