Thursday, February 22, 2001
Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff John Warner is no longer allowing inmates to work outside the jail because of an inmate who allegedly left the facility to purchase alcohol earlier this month.
Warner said he has stopped the practice as sheriff's officials review the jail's inmate worker policy.
Along with this, sheriff's officials are also conducting an internal investigation to determine how inmate James Todd Reimer was able to get cash to allegedly purchase alcohol Feb. 6.
For years, Warner has allowed inmates to do work outside of the jail, which included shoveling snow and maintenance work at county buildings.
However, Warner has suspended the practice because Reimer, 30, is believed to have left to purchase a bottle of schnapps from a nearby liquor store.
At the time of the alleged purchase, Reimer had been let out of the jail with another inmate, Alfred Flood, to throw away trash and shovel snow. The two men were being monitored by a camera outside the jail and by deputies who made periodic checks.
Both men were outside working because they were each a trusty, who is an inmate allowed to work.
Later that evening, Reimer and Flood were allegedly caught drinking liquor while baking cookies in the jail's kitchen. Both men have been charged with felonies, and their trusty status has been revoked.
Warner is frustrated he has had to suspend inmates from working outside the jail or at county buildings.
"We have saved taxpayers money by using inmates to pick up trash along highways, shoveling snow and doing maintenance work at county buildings," Warner said. "If the inmates were not doing this work, the county would have to hire someone to do this."
Warner also told of one summer where inmates worked at the Routt County Fairgrounds painting and improving the grounds.
"We never had a problem with this until now," Warner said. "We are cautiously reviewing our policies to see if we can be doing things better."
In reviewing the jail's policy, Warner has looked to the counties of Douglas, Arapahoe, Boulder and Jefferson for some guidance.
"A lot of times the bigger agencies on the Front Range have already experienced this type of problem," Warner said.
Warner said he has not heard back from the agencies but expects to in the next couple of weeks.
Warner's order does not impact work done by inmates inside the jail. Warner is continuing to use inmates to do laundry, cook meals and clean offices.
"We get people who truly realize they made a mistake, and they don't want to sit in a jail cell all day and watch soap operas," Warner said.