SALINE COUNTY, Ark. – A program allows state inmates to leave the confines of prisons and live and work in county and some city jails.
The program is beneficial for overcrowded prisons, jails on tight budgets, and prisoners on the verge of being released from jail.
It came about through Act 309. It says convicts can do work at the jails and typically live there until their sentences are up. Some sheriff offices say the program has saved thousands of dollars.
Lt. JP Massiet is the Saline County Detention Center jail administrator and says he enjoys what he does.
“We can hold 234 inmates, but our average is about 200,” he said.
With some of the extra space he says he has seven 309 inmates. It’s a work program that gives inmates the ability to live and work at certain county or city jails. They are trusted to move around a facility helping out as needed.
“I’ve had master carpenters, master electricians, master plumbers and they have helped me [with] the maintenance of this jail facility,” said Massiet.
It’s saving him and the sheriff’s office when it comes to their tight budget.
“The best dollar amount I can put on that is invaluable. They are invaluable assets,” said Massiet.
The program is in 42 county jails and a handful of city jails. Any inmate can apply unless they are serving time for capital or first-degree murder, sexual offenses or escape.
The inmates have to go through an interview process before being chosen.
“I will not just take anybody because I have to feel conformable [with them coming here],” said Massiet.
The Arkansas Department of Correction said people serving time for second-degree murder or manslaughter could be eligible for the program, but when it comes to who can be in Massiet’s jail, he says he doesn’t let just anyone in.
“A 309 program to a county jail is actually a privilege. It’s not a right,” said Massiet.
He said they do most their work at the jail facility, and if they are ever off jail property they are constantly supervised. There is also a program for women, but it’s much smaller. Only five jails allow female 309 inmates.