Polk inmate program saves taxpayers millions

Inmates convicted of lesser crimes are saving taxpayers millions of dollars through the Polk County Sheriff's Office Inmate Work Program.

Qualifying inmates are offered two choices: Jail time or court-ordered community service. Those participating in the program pay their dues by cleaning and maintaining city, county, and state properties.

Last year, inmates in the program put in more than 200,000 hours and saved taxpayers about $1.9 million, according to the sheriff's office.

"These are jobs that have to be done, and if we didn't have (inmates) doing it, then we'd have to do it ourselves, and if we had to do it ourselves, we'd have to pay," said Sheriff Grady Judd.

Karen Foster, a member of the program who was cleaning county buildings Tuesday, said it's a good way to give back to the community and learn from her mistakes.

"Be productive and be responsible," said Foster.

Arron Garcia said he too prefers cleaning office spaces, to in return sleep in his own home and spend time with his family.

"It's better than being in jail," he said.