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Offenders serve the Kandiyohi County community while serving sentence

Kandiyohi Community Service offers individuals convicted of a crime the opportunity to work off jail time and pay off fines and fees, while also giving back to the community. Offenders in the program do a range of jobs, from building park cabins and picnic tables to mowing lawns and maintaining county vehicles.

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Kandiyohi County Community Service crews have been building several camper cabins for Games Lake County Park over the last few years. It is just one of many different projects and jobs the crews do as part of the program.
Contributed / Kandiyohi County Community Corrections

WILLMAR — While being convicted of a crime and sentenced to perform community service probably isn't a proud moment for most, the Kandiyohi County Community Service Program does provide offenders the chance to be proud of the work they do while serving their time.

"The biggest part of this, our community work service program is designed to teach (offenders) some work skills, but also give them the opportunity to give back to the community," said Tami Jo Lieberg, director of Kandiyohi County Community Corrections.

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Kandiyohi County Community Corrections director Tami Jo Lieberg
West Central Tribune file photo

Lieberg, along with program coordinator Brian Nelson and supervisor Bret Roelofs, spoke to the Kandiyohi County Board on April 19 about the program and all it does.

"A lot of this community service, we kind of go under the radar," Nelson said. "It is the little things that get done here that we are really proud of."

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Community Service Program had to cut back on how much it was doing over the past two years. Things are now starting to get back to some kind of normalcy and work is picking up.

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"Things are looking up," Nelson said. "There are a lot of jobs we have done recently."

Community service work crews are made up of inmates from the jail; offenders, both adult and juveniles, who have been sentenced to community service; and offenders working off fees and fines.

"They are working off fines and fees that might not get back," Roelofs said.

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Kandiyohi County Community Service crews have built fences and parks facilities at various county parks. They also do a lot of mowing, cleaning of buildings and garbage pickup at the parks.
Contributed / Kandiyohi County Community Corrections

Tasks completed by the work crews range from cleaning county facilities to maintaining county vehicles to constructing park amenities. The crews have been behind the building of the camper cabins at Games Lake , with the final one to be installed this year. They also built the bunk beds and tables for the cabins along with repairing and rebuilding picnic tables for the various county parks.

Crews also refurbished the inside of the Sheriff's Office firearms tactical trailer, adding shelving for better organization, and upgraded a van with benches and shelving.

"(The deputies) use this for support for the SWAT team," Roelofs said. "They are very happy with having that van."

Community service crews, including juveniles, helped spruce up the bedrooms at the Prairie Lakes Youth Programs facility on the MinnWest Technology Campus. This included a new paint job and carpet.

"It just turned out fabulous," Nelson said.

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Annual work includes snow removal in the winter and mowing in the summer. Crews also do a lot of maintenance at the county parks, keeping facilities in good condition and clean.

"We have a list each year with the parks, what we can do," Roelofs said. "We are pretty busy on the mowers in the summer."

In 2022, crews will be sanding and painting the cell doors and repairing handrails at the Kandiyohi County Jail and doing a special project with the DREAM Technical Academy charter school in Willmar by building planter boxes.

"All the projects you have taken on is just fantastic," said County Commissioner Corky Berg.

Inmates who have been part of community service, in feedback shared during the County Board presentation, said they have learned a whole host of skills from changing oil and basic masonry work to learning about their community and the jobs available. They said the program showed them how to enjoy work and helping people. They also thanked staff for treating them as one of the team, instead of just an offender there because the court ordered it.

The staff of Kandiyohi County Community Corrections, which runs the Community Service Program, hope that the offenders who serve on the crews get some positives out of their experience, most importantly skills they can take back out into their community.

"Give them a skill to go forward and be able to change their lives," Lieberg said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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