There’s one person you can thank for the success of Scioto County’s work-release program for inmates and probationers: Shawn Davis, Chief Probation Officer for Scioto County Common Pleas Court. Commissioner Bryan Davis (no relation) says, “Shawn is the man. Shawn took the vision and ran with it. You can’t do anything without vision.”
And part of Shawn Davis’s vision was to make the jail more than three hots and a cot. His goal was to get non-violent offenders away from sitting in a cell all day and out into the community where they could learn the value of hard work and maybe even pick up a skill.
While offenders are most visible picking up trash, they’ve been doing a lot more. Inmates and probationers assisted in recent remodeling projects at the jail learning skills like drywall, painting, and carpet installation.
Commissioner Bryan Davis told me that one worker was actually able to get a job installing drywall when he completed his probation. Othe projects include building a kennel at the dog shelter, painting the fence at Greenlawn cemetery, and helping move furniture around the courthouse. They even constructed a moon garden at Sierra’s Haven rescue shelter. Plus they’ve picked up some office skills like shredding documents and putting together printers for the Board of Elections. Not to mention clearing several hundred bags of trash from the roadways.
Shawn Davis says he’s also made another change. Previously when someone on probation failed a drug test, they’d automatically get three days in jail. That can still happen, but the preferred approach now is to send the offender to counseling coupled with participation in the work-release program. Davis said he hopes that the combination of counseling with work to keep the offender busy during the day could help keep some people on the right path.
He says many participants in the program have already thanked him for teaching them new skills. The next project he’d like to tackle is putting inmates to work taking care of township cemeteries. Many small communities lack the funds to pay for upkeep. Davis says the program slows down a bit in the winter months and that he can’t wait for spring to get more projects going.