City of Lake Stevens saves money by using DOCBY PAM STEVENS | EDITOR Inmates help keep your tax dollars
These low-risk inmates are here as hired help through a contract with the City of Lake Stevens and the DOC.
Inmates spend their time cleaning out retention ponds, trimming down weeds around parks and waterways and other landscaping needs, as the City sees fit.
“These workers help us to get ready for special events or projects,” City of Lake Stevens Public Works Director Dave Ostergaard said. “We can take three to five individuals for six to seven hours on a project that needs special attention.”
None of the inmates involved are considered a security risk and all of them have been screened. They are also under the supervision of City maintenance crews.
“They have to be screened and only certain individuals can be involved,” Ostergaard said.
This program helps the City reduce the costs of paying seasonal or full-time employees for more time-consuming jobs. It also gives inmates a way to earn some extra money and get out and work.
“We pay them a minimal amount and they help augment our Public Works crews.,” Ostergaard said. “It’s very cost effective for the city.”
The DOC also sees this as a win-win situation.
“The City of Lake Stevens utilizes our work crew on numerous projects that their Maintenance Department can’t get to due to the large amount of work load put on their department since annexing several years ago,” Sergeant John Conner of the DOC said.
The program has been a success here in Lake Stevens and has helped when big events like the Triathlon, come to town.
“When we have certain types of events, they can do some beautifying before an event,” Ostergaard said.
The program is also a positive step in the life of a minimum security inmate, helping them get ready to transition to life outside of prison.
“By using DOC work crew programs, the City of Lake Stevens helps the offenders develop good work ethics and a sense of accomplishment while they work,” Conner said. “In addition, a percentage of the offender’s pay from the City of Lake Stevens and other agencies our crews work for, will go directly to their cost of incarceration and other debts that they have accrued before being incarcerated.”
The program has been in Lake Stevens for the past nine years but the DOC has had the program in place since 1997. They also have contracts with 32 other agencies including 12 cities.
“DOC has utilized offender work crews program since the Minimum Security Unit first opened up,” Conner said. “DOC established this program to help offenders develop work habits and assist the offenders to ease back into a community setting before releasing. Also, the program helps offenders to pay back their legal obligations.”
One Lake Stevens crewmember acknowledges that all of the DOC workers she has been involved with through this program have been very hard working and are conscientious of the jobs they are asked to perform.
“We’ve never had a problem that I know of,” she said. “They all take direction well and do a great job.”