County considers letting Community Justice crews take on more jobs

Work crews from Jackson County Community Justice's Transition Center could soon be eligible to do landscape and maintenance work for private companies.

It's a proposition Community Justice officials say could offset taxpayer costs and get work done on private sector jobs that have gone to bid but had no takers.

"We're looking at how we can make sure the program is as sustainable as possible," said Eric Guyer, deputy director of Transition Services. "This is one more way we can accomplish that."

County Commissioners will consider a board order for the change at an upcoming public meeting, possibly Wednesday, May 15.

Historically, Transition Center crews of criminal offenders making the transition back into mainstream society have done jobs such as painting, brush clearing, litter removal and landscape maintenance for government and nonprofit agencies.

"It has been the policy that this work was restricted to non-profits and to the public sector folks in need," Commission Chairman Don Skundrick said.

Commissioners said they are on board with passing the change, but only if the Community Justice crews don't compete with private companies during the bid process.

"I don't want county labor competing against private sector labor," Skundrick said. "If this is work that the private sector's already doing, then we don't want to compete against that. We don't want to take those jobs."

Guyer said the crews of six to eight collect around $400 a day during work.

"That number can vary depending on the work being performed," Guyer said. On average, 80 offenders are eligible to do the work-based restitution.

Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said there is a provision in the Oregon Constitution that allows counties to opt into similar agreements between inmate crews and the private sector. The provision, found in Article 1, Section 41, passed Nov. 8, 1994.

"This was an initiative-based petition," Breidenthal said.

Recently, the Transition Center had been approached by some private companies that had projects unsuccessful at attracting bidders, including brush clearing along the railroad tracks.

"(That) probably is the catalyst," Guyer said.

County administration could enter into contracts of up to $30,000, not exceeding one year. If the project amount was higher, board approval would be needed.

"We wouldn't change that," Skundrick said.

— Ryan Pfeil

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