Work-release center could open soon

A new work-release center approved by the Santa Rosa County Commission could open within a few weeks to house inmates who are already in the jail for minor offenses, Sheriff Wendell Hall said.

Hall told commissioners meeting last Thursday that at least a half dozen inmates now jailed for convictions of nonviolent crimes, such as failure to pay child support, could be moved to the Milton industrial park facility that previously contained the now-closed Florida Juvenile Justice Center.

The work-release plan in which inmates would be allowed temporary freedom for jobs in the community would be a “pilot program,” supported by funds left over from the Sheriff’s Office 2014-2015 budget and rent of about $20 per day paid by the prisoners, Hall said.

Hall has said the 15,000-square-foot facility could eventually house up to 120 prisoners. But he said if the program doesn’t prove effective or financially feasible, “I would be the first to pull the plug on it.”

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