Work release program gives Sheriff’s Office inmates new lease on life

Renza “Buster” Bailey is getting out of jail on Friday, Jan. 26…and when he does so, he has a plan to turn his life around. 

Bailey has learned construction through an inmate work program with the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office that teaches inmates work and life skills in order to prevent them from landing back in jail.

For instance, Bailey has learned how to read tape measures and blueprints. He’s looking to get a job with heavy equipment work, with the Sheriff’s Office linking him up with a local job provider. 

“It’s been a learning process. It really helps us. They treat us like we’re human beings,” Bailey said. “It’s something that you can learn and get back out on the streets and not have to keep coming back to jail.”

Renza “Buster” Bailey is looking to get into working with heavy equipment after getting out of jail on Friday, Jan. 26. Bailey has learned construction skills through a work release program with the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office that aims to reduce jail recidivism. [COLLIN BREAUX | Holmes County Advertiser]

The skills inmates learn help them get jobs and “be a productive member of society,” Bailey said.

The program was instituted after Holmes County Sheriff John Tate was elected to his position in 2017 and began with inmates doing county work on bridge rails and through manual labor. Steve Herrington works in road squad construction with the Sheriff’s Office and teaches inmates construction skills.

“When we got approval for (the new Sheriff’s Office administrative building on Highway 90), it turned into getting a bunch of guys out. They had no formal training,” Herrington said. “A lot of these guys have been in and out, repeat, coming back. We started out gutting this building with inmate work crews.”

Half the inmates didn’t know how to read a tape measure, Herrington said.

“They had no construction experience,” Herrington said. “Really, life on the street experience is all they had. We would take them and train them and show them construction ways and finishing and completing a job from start to finish.”

The program has had several success stories. Herrington keeps in contact with the guys, who sometimes call or stop by at his house after they get released from jail. 

“We minister to the guys as we go along and tell them life’s a choice. You can either keep going down the road you’re going and keep doing the things you’re doing in and out or you can learn something, a skill, you can put to use on the streets and get a job and be a productive member of society,” Herrington said. “I’m happy the sheriff picked me to be a part of this. It means a lot to me to be able to make a difference in these guys’ lives.”

Tate said inmates who end up in jail after not being able to make child support payments participate in the program, who get hired to work while the Sheriff’s Office helps pay their child support.

“It teaches them trades. It teaches them how to do electrical,” Tate said. “It teaches them things that they may not know. We’ve had so many of them tell us that they’ve learned so much doing this stuff that it’s helped them. When they get out, it’s helped them find a job.”

Inmates work on a non-paying crew when they first enter the program, before moving into a paying job. Tate said that’s so program members “pay their dues” and so the Sheriff’s Office “see how they’re going to act.”

“When they get out of jail, they keep their money in the account and pay all their fines and child support obligations,” Tate said. “Whatever they got left, we write them a check for when they get out.”

Helping people get back on track is “very rewarding,” Tate said.

“It’s something that we should all strive to do–help others,” Tate said. “Not just in a law enforcement stance but in a general stance. There’s all these people out there that need help, especially inmates. Some of them get brought up in families and lives that they don’t know anything else.”

For instance, one Sheriff’s Office inmate reportedly said they’d never had a legal job before.

“We were teaching him how to get up in the morning, go to a job, come home,” Tate said. “He said he’d never experienced that.”

Around 30 inmates are usually in the program at a given time. 

“We stay full,” Tate said. “Of course, they got to meet criteria. They can’t be sex offenders. They can’t be murderers and stuff like that.”

Tate said the program is a success.

“It’s helping the taxpayers out because it’s saving money to the taxpayers for them to remodel (the Sheriff’s Office administrative building) and build stuff,” Tate said. “They’re working on the Bonifay City Hall soon. They’rel also helping out remodel the School Board office.”

Leave a Reply

Advertising Options

Reach your target audience with our newspaper advertising options. Our publication has a wide readership, making it the perfect platform to promote your business or event.

To inquire about advertising rates and options, please fill out the form below and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.

Take advantage of our high readership and targeted demographics to promote your business to the right people. From print ads to online banners, we have a variety of options to suit your needs and budget.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to reach your target audience. Contact us today to learn more about our advertising options.

E-Mailing List Subscription

Stay informed with our email mailing list! Sign up today and never miss a beat on the latest news and events in your community.

To join our e-mailing list, simply fill out the form below. We’ll send you a weekly digest of the top stories, delivered right to your inbox.

By signing up, you’ll be the first to know about breaking news, upcoming events, and special promotions. Plus, you’ll be eligible for exclusive subscriber-only content and offers.