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Oakland County Work Release Improved Not Eliminated

by ptbarone on June 5, 2009

There’s a rumor going around that Sheriff Bouchard is shutting down the Oakland County Sheriff’s Work Release program.  I have discussed this rumor with Undersheriff Mike McCabe, and have determined that the rumor is just that – a rumor.  But like many rumors, there is a small kernel of truth.  In fact – there is a very small kernel of truth.

Yes, it’s true that work release will not continue in its current incarnation but Sheriff Bouchard is not closing the program. Instead, the Sheriff’s work release program is being changed – and improved.  Undersheriff McCabe calls this new work release program “virtual work release” because it uses a GPS tether and remote monitoring.  He is excited about new program because it will allow even more inmates who otherwise qualify for work release to keep their jobs during these tough economic times.  The transition to the new virtual work release may occur or at least be finalized in October 2009, but the actual date has not yet been set.

After the transition to the new work release program the biggest two changes will be that inmates will sleep in their own homes and will be required to wear a GPS tether.  This tether will allow the Sheriff’s department to monitor the inmate’s whereabouts 24/7. 

The GPS tether affords an additional advantage in that it will allow the Sheriff’s department to make sure inmates are where they claim to be – namely at work.  With the current work release program it is sometimes difficult to assure that the inmates are actually at their place of employment.  Under the new work release program there will simply be more inmate accountability because there will be no way to leave for work and end up someplace else.

The secondary advantage of the GPS tether work release is that inmates will be at home any time they are not at work.  So, instead of sleeping in a minimum security jail, inmates will be able to sleep in the comfort of their own homes.

Other changes include the following:

  • There will also be “virtually” no limit to the number of people in work release at a given time provided of course that each inmate meets the criteria for work release eligibility.  Currently the number of beds limits the number of inmates who can take advantage of the work release program. 
  • The new virtual work release will also “virtually” eliminate the waiting period before which work release may begin.  Currently inmates may have to wait as long as 7-10 days before a bed “opens up.” 
  • Finally, there will no longer be a time limit as to when work release is available.  Currently, for shorter sentences work release was not available.  Now virtual work release will be available regardless of sentence length. 

Undersheriff McCabe is also excited about the program because he believes that these positive changes in work release will allow Sheriff Bouchard to better serve and protect the community while still allowing those inmates sentenced to work release to remain employed.

With virtual work release inmates will continue to be charged a fee based to help defray the costs of administration.  These fees will probably be in the area of $11 to $12 a day to participate in the work release program which will include the tether cost.  Nothing has been finalized yet.

Work Release is a minimum-security facility that houses sentenced inmates (court-ordered into the program) who have the opportunity to continue to work while they serve their sentences.  Many of our clients want work release simply because it is the only way for them to keep their jobs while serving a jail sentence. 

For more information on work release, see the link below.


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