Polk County, Fl., is building a $2.3 million work camp for men who land in jail for driving with a suspended license or backsliding on child support payments. The unit will house 96 low-risk, non-violent male inmates who can keep or get a job to pay off their financial debt while at the camp, keep a steady job once they’re released, and stay out of jail, said Sheriff Grady Judd. The facility could be expanded to hold 400 inmates.
Most inmates would use public transportation to get to work and others might be able to pay for rides through the Sheriff’s Office. Some other Florida county jails and state prisons operate work camps. They are designed for about 5 percent to 10 percent of the male Polk County jail inmates who “aren’t violent or dangerous” and found themselves at the “end of the criminal justice rope,” Judd said. Bill Bales, a criminologist at Florida State University, said “if they behave in prison, they’ll behave on the outside.”