Slemp: Savings from Wise Works beyond $1 million

February 13, 2020

As of this week, Wise County’s Wise Works alternative sentencing program has saved local taxpayers more than $1 million, according to Commonwealth Attorney Chuck Slemp.

Wise Works allows low-risk nonviolent offenders to avoid jail time by completing community service work, Slemp noted in a Monday morning press release.

The county board of supervisors created the program in late 2017 at Slemp’s request.

Program Director Teddy Bishop supervises offenders, Slemp noted, and works closely with the court, local job sites, prosecutors and probation officers. Participants are subject to random drug tests. Also, participants can get substance abuse counseling or treatment, job skills training, daily living skills help, GED courses and workforce development opportunities.

Currently, 55 participants are working at job sites including the county animal shelter, Big Stone Gap parks and recreation, the county redevelopment and housing authority, Salvation Army, the county school system and the towns of Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, Pound and St. Paul.

The $1 million mark represents a reduction in the daily cost of incarcerating offenders, coupled with estimated labor cost savings for participating localities and organizations, Slemp explained.