The Rolla City Council held their first and final reading on an ordinance authorizing Rolla Mayor Louis Magdits to enter into a renewal of Rolla's supervised work release program between the Missouri Department of Corrections and the City of Rolla.

The City of Rolla currently employs eight offenders from the South Central Correctional Center. Half of the individuals work in the public works department, and half of the individuals work in the park department, performing manual tasks for the city.

“We have been doing this since 2005, and we have been very pleased with the program,” said Rolla’s Public Works Director, Steve Hargis. “And we would recommend approval of the ordinance.”

The Missouri Department of Corrections requested the approval of the Supervised Work Release Program Agreement by the end of the year and was the reason behind the council holding the first and final reading at their Dec. 17 meeting.  

Council member Brian Woolley asked if the individuals employed by the city through the work release program were typically non-violent offenders and if they are “essentially trustees at this point.”

Hargis said the individuals are typically not violent, and depending on the crime, the individuals that participate in the program have two to three years left on their sentence.

“There have never been any work-related incidents, we have had some issues with drugs finding their way into the prison,” said Hargis. “The opioid crisis has hit prisons as well as everybody else.”

Drug offenses have only happened maybe half a dozen times since 2005, but all in all, it has been a very successful program, said Hargis.

Before the first and final reading of the ordinance, council member, Steven Jung, asked if there was a training program in place for the offenders employed by the city.

 “A couple of years ago I know we’ve had some issues with some trees getting trimmed a little too short. Have we put in any training program for these guys to kind of show them aesthetically what our goal is?” asked Jung.

Hargis said there is a supervisor in place, but the eight individuals aren’t “tree trimmers.” The offenders only work in the right-of-way and not on private property.

“We simply can’t train a revolving door of prisoners on the proper techniques for trimming trees, so every once in a while they are going to get it a little too close,” said Hargis.

With no further questions raised, the Rolla City Council held the first and final reading authorizing Rolla Mayor Magdits to execute on behalf of the City of Rolla a Supervised Work Release Program Agreement between the City of Rolla and the Missouri Department of Corrections.

A motion was made and seconded for the first reading and final reading. The ordinance passed with 10 city council members voting in favor of the ordinance and one city council member voting against the ordinance.

 “While I have nothing against community service or inmate work programs, I must vote no in support of inmates who have been convicted unjustly of marijuana-related charges,” said council member, Daniel Jones.  “The people decided with an overwhelming vote that we would allow cannabis into our community, we are being terrible ambassadors when we convict for marijuana.”

The renewal of the Missouri Department of Corrections Supervised Work Release Program Agreement for the South Central Correctional Center, and the City of Rolla runs through Feb. 29, 2020.