Some of the inmates at the Utah County Security Center have the perfect summer job.
They get out into the fresh air, generally spend just a few days on the job and the job is rarely the same one day to the next.They're part of the Construction Training Program that exists under the auspices of the Utah County Sheriff's Department.
"This is a great program where everybody benefits," deputy Mike Swenson said. "There's no downside."
The program is unusual because it is service oriented rather than work-release. There's no cost to the job provider except materials.
Instigated by Sheriff David Bateman three years ago, inmates get out of the jail and gain some useful experience while they contribute to society.
Inmates volunteer their time and expertise to go out on jobs for nonprofit organizations like the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and Habitat for Humanity as well as municipal tasks.
When Spanish Fork needed help constructing their ball fields, inmate workers assisted.
When Elkridge needed a garage for its snowplow, the inmates put one together, then another because city officials were so pleased with the first one.
When Santaquin needed storage sheds, the inmates built them.
They've helped Orem residents with their citywide cleanup blitz each year and worked in Provo on housing projects.
This summer, they've painted bridges, cleared out abandoned houses, created a new rock berm wall and built a redwood arbor on The Forgotten Hillside at the Olmsted Park, where the storytelling festival is held each August. More than 200 man-hours have been put in, saving the festival several thousand dollars.
Next year, they'll put in a sprinkling system and put roses over the arbor entrance.
"We have projects lined up quite a ways in advance," Swenson said. "In the summer we're always swamped."
In the winter, the demand slows a little but Swenson is still able to keep his workers pretty busy.
"Small construction projects are where we shine," he said. "And the nice thing about construction is, for the next 20 years, these guys can drive by and say, " `I helped do that.' "
Swenson, who is a licensed building contractor, usually mans a crew of four to five handpicked inmate workers who are in the jail for nonviolent offenses. He selects his workers based on how they get along with the jail population, their potential and sometimes their experience.
Swenson's only real problem is keeping good workers very long as inmates finish their sentences and move on with frequency.