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April 27, 2012

Local program to enable low-level offenders (messy) community service alternative to jail

Road killThe only thing I may more than a positive "win-win" sentencing story is a positive and amusing sentencing story on a Friday afternoon which readily fosters posting entertaining pictures and links and which might encourage some (punny) reader comments all weekend long.  Thus, I was giddy to come across this new local story out of Michigan, headlined "Sheriff: Sentencing criminals to roadkill cleanup will save Ingham County money." Here are the basics:

Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth said his agency's new program putting non-violent offenders to work as roadkill cleanup crews will save taxpayer dollars.

The Dead Animal Recovery Team, or DART, will allow judges to sentence non-violent offenders to cleanup duty as opposed to probation, jail time and other sentences. Wriggelsworth said the new program will save Ingham County $40 a day for each criminal sentenced to DART as opposed to jail time.

"That's the whole point," Wriggelsworth said. "The benefit will be cleaner streets clearly, but also the fact that we've got people that could have been sentenced to jail working for the community. It's a win-win."

The Ingham County Sheriff's Office has been developing DART for the past several months, Wriggelsworth said. His inspiration came from the Saginaw County Sheriff's Office where a similar program is employed. The Sheriff's Office purchased a trailer and equipment such as shovels for DART, at no cost to taxpayers. Wriggelsworth said everything was paid for through inmate booking fee funds.

A volunteer deputy will supervise DART offenders as they work, Wriggelsworth added. "Basically, the only cost to taxpayers is going to be the gas," he said.

DART will remove smaller animals from Ingham County's roadways, such as racoons and possums, according to Wriggelsworth. That service is currently nonexistent throughout the county as the Road Commission only removes larger animals. "The smaller animals are just smushed into oblivion," Wriggelsworth said. "I believe there is a need for (DART)."

Ingham District judges Thomas Boyd and Donald Allen both are supportive of DART and the sentencing alternatives it will provide them. Wriggelsworth emphasized that those sentenced to DART work will only be low-court offenders. "We're not going to put murderers or rapists out there," he said.

I hope readers are amused not only by this alternative sentencing story, but also by the picture uploaded with this post which comes from product line at Roadkill Toys. (Pictured here is Twitch, a flattened raccoon.  Checking out some alternative images that might have been posted with this story is not recommended during the lunch hour.)

I think it would be extra cool if Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth — great name in this context, by the way — would make a habit of rewarding offenders who do especially good work as part of the DART team with one of the "squash-plush toys" sold by the creative folks at Roadkill Toys.  As the website explains, in addition to Twitch there is Grind (a rabbit), Splodge (a hedgehog), Pop (a weasel) and Smudge (a squirrel), and it is important for folks to "get your squash-plush toys before the maggots set in."

April 27, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Permalink


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It wouldn't be considered punishment to everyone. See Scott on Season 3, Episonde 6 of "My Strange Addiction" (addicted to picking up road kill), http://delishows.com/my-strange-addiction-season-3-episode-6-smells-pine-cleaner-roadkill-addict.html

If Scott plans on committing a crime, he may want to do it in Ingham County, MI.

Posted by: Brad | Apr 27, 2012 1:05:13 PM

I'm opposed to these type of alternative sentences because it gives the police an incentive to arrest people they would not otherwise arrests in order to get low-wage labor for the government. This is not a new issue.

H.L Mencken wrote a great story about his early reporting years in Baltimore where he describes how every time the jail needed painting the constables would arrest a bunch of drunks along the waterfront and in cahoots with the magistrate judge they were sentenced to paint the jail.

Sure it saves tax payer money. That's the problem . The goal of the law is order maybe even justice; it's not a slavery scheme under a different color.

I know you were looking for humor Doug so I'm sorry for not playing along. But these types of schemes have a long history of abuse.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 27, 2012 1:43:02 PM

Despite your efforts to be a buzzkill concerning roadkill punishments, Daniel, I really do not think net-widening is likely to be a big problem with this program. The reason this saves money is because otherwise offenders would be headed to jail at $40/day in taxpayer expense. It would be nice if offenders were given a small wage for their labors to minimize further your stated concerns, but I am not going to let visions of the best be the enemy of the roadkill good here.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 27, 2012 6:26:46 PM

How about providing food for the jail?

I think that in the modern era the idea that police are going to arrest more people just to provide cheap labor for the government is more than little far-fetched. The police are too far removed from the parts of government concerned with things like cleaning the streets. Indeed, the police and the jail are often under different governments entirely: city v. county.

As for the slavery reference, there is a world of difference between enslaving people by reason of the circumstances of their birth and requiring service to partially pay for the damage to society caused by one's volitional acts. The difference is expressly recognized in the text of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Apr 27, 2012 7:00:55 PM

"Let them eat roadkill"

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady ¦ Nemo Me Impune Lacessit | Apr 28, 2012 5:11:16 AM

Seriously, why not let freshly killed animals be used in the prison kitchen to prepare gourmet meals by prisoners with culinary talent?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 28, 2012 7:11:28 AM

works for me SC as long as those who VOTE for the food budget are ALSO required to do the same at least once a week!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 28, 2012 11:08:43 PM

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