Hannibal’s City Court Prisoner Labor Program recently passed its one year anniversary. And one year later, Hannibal Police Chief Lyndell Davis remains as big a supporter of the venture as when he first proposed it to the city council.
“It appears to be a popular program on both sides of the judicial fence,” said Davis. “It’s a win-win for the community. It’s a positive alternative and it benefits the community.”
Under the program, certain individuals convicted of offenses in municipal court are given the opportunity to work through the program to lessen the jail time they are slated to serve. Under the program, for each hour worked $10 is shaved off the individual’s fine.
During the past year an assortment of projects have been undertaken by the participants. Last week, in anticipation of National Tom Sawyer Days, workers could be seen weeding and cleaning along Broadway and side streets.
“It gives them a sense of pride to work in areas where the parade, carnival and Tom Sawyer events are going to be and to see the difference they’ve made,” said Davis, who has final say on what projects are undertaken by the program’s participants.
Workers are provided with traffic vests and gloves, and when needed equipment to protect their sight and hearing.
“We try to be very careful and ensure basic safety needs,” said Davis.
The type of work undertaken by the program’s participants has changed somewhat in the past year.
“We’ve tweaked the program as we’ve gone along,” said Davis. “Some workers are capable of higher level tasks than others, so we will allow them to use weed eaters and edgers. It’s all judged on a case-by-case basis.”
One to two HPD officers will supervise each group of from 10 to 12 workers. Davis stresses that there is a “very low tolerance” for participants who prove to be verbally or physically abusive.
“It happens on occasion, but not frequently,” said Davis, regarding problems with individuals. “Most people would rather be outdoors doing something like that as opposed to sitting in jail.”
The startup cost of the program was minimal, according to Davis.
“It pales in comparison to what we’ve saved by not putting someone in a local jail,” he said. “It is difficult to place an exact dollar figure as to the savings to the city of Hannibal for prisoner housing costs. However, it is fair to say several thousands of dollars were saved had the only alternative been for them to be housed in the Marion or Pike County jails for $37.50 per day.”
The alternative sentencing has benefitted taxpayers in another way, according to the police chief.
Page 2 of 2 - “Several city-related projects were completed due to the labor provided by the Municipal Court Work Program with no additional labor or outside service cost to the city departments we assisted,” said Davis.