Chuck Slemp, Commonwealth's Attorney for Wise County & the City of Norton, appeared last night at the December meeting of the Wise County Board of Supervisors to discuss the successes of an alternative sentencing program called Wise Works.
Wise Works was created earlier this year by the Wise County Board of Supervisors at the request of Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp. In July, the Board granted Slemp's request for a one-year grant to fund the new program. Beginning on August 1, 2017, non-violent and low-risk felony offenders could request to serve all or part of their sentences by completing community services hours as an alternative to jail. Participants are sentenced to work a set number of days at a designated job site. A program director supervises those who enter the program and works closely with the court, local job sites, prosecutors, and probation officers to ensure compliance with the program's expectations. Drug tests are administered at random and failure to comply with any rules of the program results in incarceration by a probation violation.
Brett Hall serves as the program's first coordinator. Hall said, "This program has seen great success since its inception in August. So far, we have had twenty Wise Works participants. Our workers are at numerous job sites from across the county and in just a few months they have worked over 3,000 hours in service to our community."
Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp said, "As Commonwealth's Attorney, my office carefully reviews cases with our law enforcement partners in an effort to seek justice, protect our community, and ensure a voice for victims of crime. We remain committed to seeking lengthy sentences and harsh punishment in cases when appropriate. However, in cases with non-violent offenders who are unlikely to reoffend, it is also our duty and opportunity to seek ways to set offenders on the right path instead of simply incarcerating them." Slemp continued, "This program is a matter of common sense. Not only does this program offer job training, workforce development and an opportunity to turn people's lives around, taxpayers save on the cost of housing inmates, local towns and non-profit organizations save on labor costs, and participants learn the value of hard work."
Since August, Wise Works has saved taxpayers of Wise County over $38,000 in jail costs. The contributions to the community of these workers have created a taxpayer savings of over $20,000 in labor costs for localities and non-profit organizations.
The grant-funded program is expected to continue in 2018 providing an additional sentencing option for Courts within the county.