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Sheriff's Corner: STS program

I am often asked about our STS program, what it actually means and the benefit of having such a program. Many times the STS program is not understood and often mislabeled. STS is an abbreviation for “Sentencing to Service” and is often affiliated with a “chain gang” concept seen in movies. This perception is certainly not the case. These organized services that county jails and DOC provide are an excellent program for low-risk offenders and they save the taxpayers of Minnesota hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. I will give you an overview of the STS Program, what qualifies offenders for the program and some facts and figures about the Cass County STS Program in 2013.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections defines STS as a sentencing alternative for courts that puts carefully selected, nonviolent offenders to work on community improvement projects. Supervised STS crews work in parks and other public areas, frequently in combination with jail time. The Minnesota Department of Corrections, courts and local governments operate STS. Cities, counties, townships, school districts, state organizations, municipalities and other nonprofit entities may submit project proposals. Submitted proposals should outline anticipated community improvement projects. Work is done for nonprofit, community-based or government organizations. Community service work can be completed as an individual work site or as part of a crew. It can be an alternative to serving jail time, in lieu of paying a fine or as a sanction by itself.

There are several benefits to our communities and counties from STS work. Courts and corrections use STS to help reduce jail crowding. It is a way to handle the less serious offender and those who cannot pay their fine. The offenders can get an opportunity to provide a service for the community and make amends for their crime. Communities benefit by having unpaid labor provide services to nonprofit and tax-supported organizations. This saves the taxpayers money.

The STS crew completes many projects year around in our communities and on our county properties. From mowing and cleaning up in the summer to shoveling snow and maintenance in the winter, the STS crew is busy daily with a variety of pre-arranged projects that are submitted for approval. The STS crew has been invaluable to Cass County through capital improvement projects at the courthouse campus, saving tens of thousands of dollars in labor and work. From painting to light remodeling and logistics, Cass County has been able to complete several projects under budget thanks to the work of the crews.

In 2013, approximately 113 male offenders worked on the STS crew, working off sentenced jail time, fines and fees. The average daily crew size was five members and they worked 230 days in 2013. Combined, the STS Crew worked 2,144 hours in many different capacities, including 6,568 hours on Cass County projects, 1,648 on nonprofit group projects, 1,552 hours on city municipality projects, and 768 hours on DNR projects, all within Cass County. A rough estimated dollar value of projects completed in 2013 totals $91,000 and offenders worked off approximately $15,000 in fines through work on the STS crew.

If you have a program or project that you think would qualify and benefit from STS labor, please contact our Jail Program coordinator at 218-547-7352.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: Email:; phone: 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; by mail/in person to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W., PO Box No. 1119, Walker, MN 56484.