The poorly named Wise County, Virginia has a novel solution to its opioid problem. Since it doesn’t want to do anything to help these people and doesn’t want to pay to put them in prison, it forces them to do free labor for the county instead.
If you spend time in Wise County in the mountains of Virginia, you’ll see folks doing the kind of odd jobs you’d find in any rural community.
People are out painting lines on the little league field, fixing the town pool or helping out at the animal shelter.
But they’re not paid employees or volunteers. They’re felons, working off their charges.
It’s part of a new program called Wise Works, in which some people convicted of nonviolent felonies, usually for drug crimes, are sentenced to community service instead of jail. Since the program started a year and a half ago, local government and charities have saved about $200,000 in labor costs, according to program director Brian Caldwell.
“We can’t prosecute our way out of this problem. We can’t arrest our way out of the problem,” said Chuck Slemp, Wise County’s elected prosecutor.
But we sure can find a way out of our problem of paying people decent wages that would give them hope in their lives and maybe stop them from being opioid addicts in the first place!