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County Sentence to Serve program threatened

Sentence to Serve (STS) is a program used state-wide to reduce jail time through community service work. Cook County’s jail system does not house full-time prisoners, which means without STS, all offenders would need to be housed out of the county.
At Tuesday’s county board meeting, commissioners learned that Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed cutting the program which would in effect cut over 50 STS crew leaders, including Cook County’s Gary Jorgenson.

According to Sheriff Mark Falk, losing STS would significantly increase the county’s cost for housing and transporting prisoners. He also said that in the case of offenders in drug or alcohol treatment programs, moving them out of the county would move them away from critical support often provided by friends and family.

According to Jorgenson, the state funds 50 percent of STS and the county picks up the other half. Without state support, Cook County would have to pay the total cost of the program or drop it.

Jorgenson gave the board a list of dozens of STS projects done in state parks and DNR forestry, wildlife and fisheries programs as well as many projects in support of local governments and non-profits. The county board decided to write a letter of support for the STS program highlighting its benefits to the county.