ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - With Ft. Snelling State Park closed indefinitely due to flooding, the Department of Natural Resources needed to act fast to protect from rising waters.
Crews placed sandbags around an administrative building at the park Tuesday, as floodwaters inched closer to the door.
Instead of hiring a crew to do the job, Hennepin County Emergency Management called on the Sentencing to Serve program, run through the county’s Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“It’s way, way cheaper than anything we would pay anyone else,” said Kelly Fisher of Hennepin County Emergency Management.
Participants in the program are low-level offenders who are either sentenced to community service or trying to work off court fines.
“I would rather do this than go to jail,” said Jalen Allbritton, who was completing his community service Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the county said it was “essentially free labor,” as they still have to pay to staff supervisors and provide materials.
“People make mistakes and you pay for your mistakes and these people are paying for their mistakes and giving back at the same time,” said Fisher.
While it’s a Hennepin County program, the state and municipalities can utilize the program as well.
Fisher says it’s not only alleviating the jail, it’s exposing individuals to new opportunities.
“Some of them are learning new life skills and take an interest in what we do and they ask, ‘Hey where can I get a job like this?’” said Fisher.