By Tim Eberly
He rides his bicycle to work in the mornings, and when he comes home in the evening, he checks himself back into the Hill County Detention Center.
The man was sentenced Friday in District Court to serve six months in jail after he was arrested in June for driving under the influence, a felony offense because he had at least three prior DUI convictions.
Before the sentencing, the man's attorney contacted Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera and asked him if he could be the first to participate in the county's first-ever work-release program, which allows inmates to maintain their employment while they serve their time.
Though he was not fully prepared to implement the program, Szudera agreed to start before all loose ends were tied up.
"I wasn't going to pass this individual up because I wasn't set up," Szudera said this morning.
Last week, Szudera met with District Judge John Warner to ask for his cooperation with the program. City Court Judge Joyce Perszyk and Justice of the Peace Carol Chagnon had already voiced their approval.
Work-release inmates will depart about a half-hour before their work shifts. Following the work day, they must be back within the same period of time, Szudera said.
Participants' employers must give their permission.
In exchange, the participants get to keep their jobs, and hopefully their lives, intact.
Inmates in the program are expected to pay for their keep.
It costs $47 a day to house an inmate, but in this case, Warner lowered the fine because it's "what the individual can afford," Szudera said. "The intent of the program is to keep people financially solid."
There is a minimum-security dormitory room with seven bunk beds that was built with this program in mind. But for now, the work-release inmates will stay in the general population because the dorm room camera is not yet functional.
Prior to the first work-release inmate's arrival, Szudera met with Les Osbourne, administrator for the detention center, to ensure that detention center officers will prevent work-release program participants from smuggling contraband into the jail.
"The security of the facility cannot be compromised by the work-release program or the worker inmate program," Szudera said.