Work crews from the Jackson County Community Justice Transition Center could soon be eligible to do landscape and maintenance work for private companies.
It's a proposition that could help offset taxpayer costs, Community Justice officials say, and get work done on private-sector jobs that have gone to bid without any 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."
"We believe this is part of a greater cause that we're doing out here," added Guyer, who said the program reduces the number of repeat offenders. "We see this as an opportunity to make sure the offenders we work with are active and are working."
Jackson County commissioners will consider the proposal at an upcoming public meeting, possibly on Wednesday, May 15.
Transition Center crews — composed of criminal offenders making the transition back into mainstream society — generally do jobs such as brush clearing, litter removal, landscape maintenance, graffiti removal and painting for government and nonprofit agencies.
"It has been the policy that this work was restricted to nonprofits and to the public-sector folks in need," said Jackson County Commissioner Don Skundrick.
The commissioners have indicated they are on board with the change, but only if 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 Community Justice crews of six to eight workers collect about $400 a day.
"That number can vary depending on the work being performed," Guyer said.
On average, 80 offenders are eligible to work. The Transition Center has budgeted about $4.3 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year, with $962,000 coming from work-crew cleanup jobs.
Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said a provision in the Oregon Constitution allows counties to opt in to 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.
The Transition Center was recently approached by some private companies who had projects that failed to attract bidders, including a brush-clearing job along some 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 of Commissioners approval would be needed.
"We wouldn't change that," Skundrick said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.