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Beltrami County Board: Sentence to Service gets funding

BEMIDJI — Sentence to Service, a state-run program that provides those on probation for various crimes to serve the community, will receive more than $200,000 in funds, the Beltrami County Board decided at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

The contract, worth $232,623 for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, was unanimously approved by the board. Trisha Hansen, district supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, sold the board on the contract, citing the large volume of services the program provides.

And a recent agreement reached between Hansen, the jail and Beltrami County District Court judges has increased the amount of hours served by those in the program.

"We collaborated with our court and with the jail, because there were offenders or inmates in that weren’t allowed STS privileges," Hansen said. "So they agreed to volunteer for our crews, and the judges have signed off on it. Those volunteers in the last year have worked over 3,360 hours that we normally wouldn’t have had access to."

Enrollees in the program worked to help clean up after heavy winds knocked down limbs and in some cases whole trees last July, Hansen said. They’ve also served in various capacities at the county fair, shoveling driveways and sidewalks for the disabled, picking up garbage on eight miles of county roads, painting and re-roofing the Blackduck Law Enforcement Center and acquiring 10,000 pounds of food for the Bemidji Food Shelf, according to Hansen.

Two crews of about 10 people perform these services and others.

District 5 Commissioner Jim Lucachick praised Sentence to Service, but wanted to ensure a third crew — which would cost the county an additional $116,000 annually, Hansen said — wasn’t immediately needed.

"Is there any possibility of getting back to running three crews? Cause we know we turn down projects every year, and we have to pick and choose what we work the two crews on" Lucachick said. "I think it’s an awful good investment and it’s a wise use of money. I just don’t want to be content sitting looking at two crews saying ‘we’re doing great things’ when we used to be in a better place."

Hansen said she believes the program is meeting the demand for volunteer work.

"I’m not certain that we’re not able to meet those needs," she said.

Sentence to Service was lauded by Lucachick prior to his motion to approve the contract.

"We get things done in our community and we get people out of incarceration, and get them out breathing air and doing something," he said. "You talk to everybody who’s involved in these things, on every end of it, it’s always positive."

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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