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W.Va. sheriff proposes work for some offenders

May 12, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - When Jefferson County Sheriff William Senseney needed painting work done, he turned to an unusual source to do the job.

"We've got a guy who was a pretty good painter when he wasn't a thief," Senseney said.

The man had been ordered to perform community service by a magistrate judge.

Under a plan proposed by the sheriff, more people convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors would be sentenced to perform work for Jefferson County instead of spending time in jail.

Senseney asked the Jefferson County Commissioners last week to hire a person to supervise inmates performing community service to expand the alternative sentencing program.

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Berkeley County has a full-time person monitoring community service inmates, Senseney said. Morgan County has a part-time worker.

The amount spent on the person's salary might be paid for by the savings from not having to pay to send those convicted to the Eastern Regional Jail, Senseney said.

Housing an inmate at the jail costs about $40 a day, he said.

In addition, the county would be getting maintenance work performed by those on community service, Senseney said.

County commissioners said they were interested in the plan, but they wanted to see a report on how much could be saved in jail housing costs.

Jefferson County Commissioner President James G. Knode asked if deputies could not be assigned to supervise those on community service.

"I've got more work already than I've got deputies," Senseney said.

The community service supervisor would keep track of the hours the person needs to serve, the number of hours performed, and would line up work for the person, said Senseney and Dennis D. Barron, chief probation officer for Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.

Community service could range from having people pick up trash along the highways to painting and other maintenance work, depending on their skills, Senseney said.

Barron said he believes Berkeley County lowered maintenance costs by 70 percent by using community service workers.

Senseney told the commissioners he would try to get a report on how those savings were determined.

The sheriff said he would meet with magistrate judges and circuit judge to discuss alternative sentencing if the commissioners agree to the plan.

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