Our View:

September 5, 2018

Inmates in Mohave County now have a chance to give back to society thanks to Sheriff Doug Schuster’s new work program. The Sheriff’s Labor Adjudication Program, first announced by Schuster in May, is off to a slow start but it’s up and running. Inmates in the program — all non-violent misdemeanor offenders — are sentenced to work on county projects such as waste cleanups and landscaping rather than being put behind bars.

So far, four people have been sentenced into the program, Schuster says.

However, a new inmate fee being considered today by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors ought to be killed.

The sheriff’s office is asking that a $50 fee be applied to the labor program as a one-time payment to cover food, water, fuel and supplies required by the program. It’s not much money, but it’s still a bad idea.

We agree that there ought to be some restitution required of people who violate society’s rules, but every new fee makes it that much harder for those people to get their lives back on the right track. Our justice system, which is already riddled with high-cost fines, court costs and required classes, can push people into a cycle of offenses when they can’t pay the money.

Unpaid fines lead to an arrest warrant, which leads to more jail time and higher costs.

People who do the crime absolutely ought to do the time and pay the fines, but let’s not pretend that the inmate work program needs additional funding.

The work program is already designed to help the county save money by assigning inmates to do labor that would otherwise be performed by employees or contracted out.

Chances are those savings more than make up for the costs of the program.

There’s a lot to like about the sheriff’s work program – the county benefits and it offers a true alternative to incarceration.

Rather than getting bogged down in fines that could become a stumbling block, let’s allow it to emerge as a path back to society for people who deserve the opportunity.

— Today’s News-Herald

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