The Madison City Municipal Court anticipates eight to ten inmates every year will qualify for the city's new work release program.
Since the start of 2019, WAAY 31 has reported five inmates have walked away from jobs sites in North Alabama, which raises questions about public safety in Madison with the creation of this program.
We did some digging to find out what safety measures are in place to make sure these inmates stay at work. We found that all of the inmates will sleep at the Madison County Jail and be bused to and from work every day, along with other inmates in the Madison County Office of Alternative Sentencing. Only non-violent inmates in jail for misdemeanors will be able to qualify.
Ann Pospicil is the director of Asbury Community Thrift Store in Madison. The store has employed people fresh out of jail before and has seen the impact a job can have on them.
"I think it provides them with stability. It provides them with self worth," said Pospicil.
That is why Pospicil supports the work release program and would give inmates work if given the chance.
Derrick Welch lives in Madison. He supports the program as well and does not have any concerns about public safety because of the vetting process.
"I got to trust the court system and I have to trust the City of Madison to have our best interests," said Welch.
The director of the work release program said all inmates in the program go through random drug tests. If they ever fail, they're pulled from the program. They also have two full-time officers and one part-time officer doing random checks on inmates while they're at work.
Neilson Young also lives in Madison. We asked him if he thinks there are enough officers to make sure inmates stay on the job.
"I don't think so and I think also along with that, I think they need a little bit more coverage," said Young.
The director of the work release program said he can hire more officers if needed, but until he can see the direct impact of the program, he won't hire more officers.
Pospicil said as long as the vetting process works as it's designed, it could have a big impact on inmates' lives.
"If none of us never reach out and try to give a second chance to people who have made mistakes, as we've all made mistakes, then how do they really have a chance to change?" said Pospicil.
The program is so new, it doesn't have inmates working yet. As cases come along, the sentencing judge in Madison Municipal Court will decide if a person qualifies. The court told WAAY 31 the program is designed to help people keep jobs they already have when they're convicted, but it could also help people get jobs if they don't have them.