Tazewell, Va. – A new program proposed by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office could pave the way for non violent offenders to become productive members of society.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Plaster is hoping to implement a work program that would allow up to 15 people an alternative to jail.  They would be in a strictly supervised work program that would require them to meet monthly with a probation officer and have drug and alcohol screenings.

They would still be subject to court review and be required to work 30 hours per week and pay $30 per month to take part in the program.  They will also be evaluated on job performance, attendance and attitude and behavior.

Dress codes and work rules will be enforced and infractions could result in the person being taken before the court.  The program rules subject participants to search of their person, residence or vehicle without a warrant or probable cause.

Plaster estimates the program could save the county $180,675 in jail fees per year and save $169,500 in community work hours.  “The greatest benefit is the strict supervision, allowing the participants to be responsible and be productive for, very often, the first time in their lives,’ Plaster said.

He said it would give the court and his office an alternative to incarceration and allow the offenders to work toward paying fines and court costs. The program is modeled after a successful community work program in Russell County.

Plaster outlined the program to the board of supervisors at its January meeting and asked for them to consider funding a position for someone to operate the program.  Board Chairman Travis Hackworth said they discuss the proposal during a budget work session and try to find funds to implement it.

Plaster gave board members a copy of the guide Russell County uses in its program.  The program enters into agreements with work sites and the program coordinator works with the site to set expectations for the employee.


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