by Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich
As county and local governments continue to explore shared services and other avenues to reduce spending, I would like to highlight a program from the Union County Sheriff’s Office that has been saving taxpayers money every year while benefiting towns and charities throughout the county.
The Union County Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP) is essentially a supervised public work program for people who have received mandatory sentences in municipal and superior courts. Non-violent criminal offenders work off their sentences instead of serving costly jail time. The participants are carefully screened and must meet stringent eligibility requirements in order to take part in the program.
Since 1993, Sheriff’s Officers have directed SLAP details in all 21 Union County municipalities that have involved roadside cleanup, park maintenance, painting of municipal buildings and other community oriented projects. Last year was no different.
SLAP crews assisted the Township of Cranford in clean-up efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Immediately after the flooding, the crews helped remove files from the municipal building. During the weeks that followed, SLAP workers were also involved in removing debris from neighborhoods throughout Cranford.
In November, SLAP workers cleaned out the Winfield Municipal Building so repairs and waterproofing could be done after the building was damaged by Hurricane Irene and the October snow storm. They also provided cleaning services to the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Squad.
Last year SLAP details cleared debris from parks and roads in Fanwood and Linden as well as helped with the clean-up after festivals in Westfield and Cranford. Crews also assisted the Fanwood Department of Public work with curb painting last summer.
SLAP continued to provide services to county facilities such as the Union County Courthouse Complex in Elizabeth and the John H. Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains as well as being active throughout the Union County Parks System.
Several charities and civic organizations continued to benefit from the SLAP program during 2011. Crews worked cleaning building and grounds for several groups including the Knights of Columbus, the American Cancer Society, the Lupus Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity.
While towns and other groups received valuable services, the offenders also benefitted because they were able to keep their jobs and remain at home with family instead of experiencing an unproductive period of incarceration. The experience also serves as a deterrent to future criminal behavior.
The violator pays his or her debt to society while doing a productive job for our community rather than being jailed at the taxpayers’ expense. It is a win/win program that will continue to benefit the people of Union County.
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