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New bus to help expand jail work program

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Ted Sullivan
October 7, 2009
— The Rock County Sheriff's Office has a new bus to expand its jail diversion program that allows offenders to pay off their fines with community service.

The Workenders program will use the bus to drive work crews to nonprofit and public organizations that need help, Capt. Russ Steeber said. The bus should be on the road at the end of the month.


The bus was purchased for $15,000 with money the sheriff's office received from the state for patrolling UW-Rock County, Steeber said. The 1999 model seats 32 adults.


"It's actually a pretty decent bus," Steeber said. "It's got low mileage for its age. It's in good condition."


Workers have helped with Southern Wisconsin AirFest, Rock River cleanup and other events, he said. The program is designed to save the county money by allowing offenders to work off their fines instead of locking them in jail.


The bus will allow the Workenders program to expand and become more efficient, Steeber said.


Currently, two correctional officers are required to drive two vans for one work crew, he said. The bus will allow one correctional officer to drive the entire work crew, saving time and manpower.


Meanwhile, if needed, a second crew could go out with a correctional officer in a van on a separate project, Steeber said.


Jean Nelson, a correctional officer, is among the five officers training to get a commercial driver's license to motor the bus.


She's been training on an obstacle course set up with orange cones behind the Rock County Health Care Center on County F. She also practices by driving around the sheriff's office complex along Highway 14.


"It's just big," Nelson said. "It's a lot to be responsible for because of the passengers."


The officers have practiced backing the bus and backing in a curve, she said. They have slowly improved their driving skills and hope to take their road test soon.


"It's just going to benefit us because we're going to be able to take out more numbers," Nelson said. "It's going to expand our numbers."



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