Inmate labor saves more than $350,000 in 3 years

Photo illustration/Nevada Appeal News Service

Photo illustration/Nevada Appeal News Service

Churchill County has saved more than $350,000 in labor costs in the last three years by allowing some jail inmates to work in the community and at the detention center.

These inmates, called trusties, are allowed to work because they are in a position of trust.

From 2005-07, trusties worked 54,800 hours while in custody.

Not all inmates are allowed to work as trusties. Barriers include inmates who have a jurisdiction hold from another agency, are deemed escape risks or who have a history of violence, a high bail amount or medical issues.

When an inmate is booked into the county jail, he or she is given rules and regulations to read.

Low-risk offenders who have been sentenced are allowed to work outside the jail with minimal oversight by individuals designated as their supervisors.

Churchill County Sheriff Rich Ingram said there are times when a trusty is not in sight of his or her supervisor.

Jobs often done by trusties working outside the jail are washing vehicles and buildings, taking out trash and working for the public works department.

A supervisor of an entity will pick up an inmate and take him or her to a work site, and at the end of day the trusty will be returned to jail.

Trusties performing jobs outside near the jail are not always closely supervised but are monitored for security purposes.

Once finished with an outside task that is close to the detention center, the trusty is required to come to the back door of the jail to notify detention officers the task has been completed.

Trusties working outside the detention center acknowledge they can randomly be tested for alcohol or drugs.

Trusties get paid $1 a day and often work to get their sentences reduced through work time credit. Another reason a lot of inmates become trusties is to fight the boredom they experience while in jail.

Ingram said there are instances where judges in rulings mandate that a particular inmate not be allowed work credits.

"I truly believe it is as win-win situation," Ingram said. "When inmates are assisting, they are helping address the workload."

Some of the jobs they perform are not those a detention officer should be doing.

"These are tasks that taxpayers do not have to pay for someone to do them," the sheriff said, mentioning they are at the least minimum wage jobs.

The inmates working outside the jail still must wear the stripes, which Ingram said are distinctive and identifiable to the public.

"People should have the ability to know if that person is an inmate," he said. "It makes them easier to see and identify."

Inmates who are not trusties are not given a complete free pass as all are required to keep their cells clean.

"It's not specialized-skill intensive," Ingram said of the jobs trusties do. "It's very much common labor."


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