The Ins and Outs of the Work Release Program

The Work Release Program is in place to allow inmates to continue working or gain employment, while facing sentencing or currently serving a sentence. The rules for the program vary from jail to jail, so qualifying factors will depend on where the sentence is being served. However, not all inmates are eligible for the program. For instance, inmates serving time for violent crimes that resulted in death or sexual assault are automatically disqualified from the program.

The program is designed to help inmates continue paid work and contribute to society. Inmates who take part in the program must report to the work release center at the end of each working day. Although inmates are given a degree of freedom of movement, there are rules around how they travel to and from work, and who they can communicate with while at work. While the rules are different for each prison, the expected conduct is essentially the same for all participants. Furthermore, inmates are expected to attend an interview with the Work Release Center, where they are also briefed on the rules for the program.

Applying for work release

Each work release program has a specific timeframe in which you can apply. For instance, some states require that inmates have a minimum of twelve months left to serve on their sentence. In all cases the relevant work release center must be contacted in order to begin the work application process. Some programs will also ask that the employer makes the initial contact in order to establish eligibility early. The release center may ask the employer to provide evidence of payroll or a contracted job offer.

Although a court can rule that an inmate is eligible for the work release program, there are cases where the jail can overrule the decision. When considering your application, the release center will look at past criminal charges. For inmates that are serving a sentence for probation violation, the original charge is what the release center will decision on. It is important to note, too, that if you have no prior work history you may not succeed in your application for work release.

Traveling to and from Work

There are also very strict rules about how you get to and from work, when participating in the work release program. Most programs will allow the inmate to drive to and from work. However, you may not pick up passengers or take any sort of detour which is not preapproved under the program. For inmates who walk to work, there is usually a limit on the distance they can travel. Pedal bikes are also normally approved, so long as the inmate has insurance and biking safety gear is used at all times.

The distance from the work release center to your place of work is also considered during the application process. In most cases, you can expect restrictions limiting distance to a radius of approximately 75 miles.

Self-employed inmates

If you are running your own business at the time of sentencing, you may qualify for the work release program. The business, however, must be well established with a provable tax history. Those inmates who are self-employed must meet the medical insurance requirements for the program. Self-employment can include home run businesses, so long as they are approved by the township.

Getting help

The work release program benefits both the inmate and the state, as participants are able to return legal fees and continue to make tax contributions. As such, the work release center wants to help inmates successfully complete the program and secure permanent work upon their release. Most centers will carry out an in-depth induction program, which will help you understand the rules of the program and what is required of you.

Your attorney can also help you get into the program by expediting the application process during trial. If you have already decided to apply before hiring an attorney, it is a good idea to hire someone who has experience with the program and labor laws in general. Once you are enrolled in the program, make sure that you follow the rules to the letter as failing to do so could jeopardize your place. Finally, if you become inadvertently involved in any incident that is against the rules of the program, make the work release center aware so it does not negatively impact on your placement.