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County Inmates Used to Help Non-Profit Organizations

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A new law approved in June has opened the door for the Salvation Army to get some free labor from an unexpected source.

Captain Gary Sturdivant is with the local Salvation Army. Last week he requested county inmates to get their family homeless shelter up and running. Although new to the Brazos Valley, in his years with the non-profit organization he's benefited from the help of county inmates.

"They work hard. If you have a project that needs some extra lifting or whatever, you call them, and because of their situation they'll do anything that's asked of them," says Sturdivant.

But things have changed since then. The attorney general's office issued a statement in October saying it was a not appropriate for a non-profit organization to benefit from labor provided by the inmates.

A bill passed in June of this year gave that decision to the county commissioners’ court at the request of the sheriff.

"The organizations benefit greatly from that and it's a public good. Our problem is these crews are also busy with public works projects for the county and possibly cities, so that's top priority for us. We can't divert one of our crews routinely to any project but we can help out periodically to some of those good causes," says Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk.

The county is saving thousands of dollars a year sending out minimum risk inmates to work for free. Sheriff Kirk says in the past they've helped such groups as the Children’s Museum and 4-H Club.