Work Program at Regional Jail Helps Inmates Leave Debt-Free

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A program at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail is trying to make it possible for inmates to leave debt-free. The Inmate Community Workforce Program has helped the incarcerated pay off more than $100,000 in fines and court costs.

The program is only about 18 months old. So far, it has helped dozens of inmates leave jail and carry on with their lives without being in debt.

“Right now we have a system where somebody gets convicted they're given a fine and then they're told come back in three months if they haven't paid it then we'll talk about whether you should go to jail,” said NBC29 legal analyst Lloyd Snook.

Since the program's September 2012 start, more than 30 inmates have left debt-free.

Lt. Martin Kumer, the jail's superintendent, says inmates have paid off more than $122,000 in fines. For every hour worked, a $7.25 credit goes toward paying off whatever it is they owe.

“This offers a way to break that cycle,” said Snook.

In Virginia you can lose your driver’s license if you're behind on paying your fines. But to get to work to pay those costs, people need to drive. Many times, nonviolent criminals are thrown back in jail because they're driving on a suspended license.

“The problem is that we have no way for these people to ever break out of the cycle. We put them in jail, we take their licenses, we make it impossible for them to work, and we're surprised that they have no money,” said Snook.

This program also helps keeps court systems unclogged and prevents people from ending up in jail because they can't pay the fines once they get out.

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