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Friday, December 20, 2013More than a 100 people who are serving Cook County Sheriff’s Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center (VRIC) sentences have been working on manual labor projects to help out local communities, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.

Among the projects the VRIC program workers are taking part in include Sheriff Dart’s Neighborhood Restoration Initiative - a new program that uses inmate workforces to tear down abandoned buildings in distressed Cook County communities.

Other work includes cleaning dog kennels at the Chicago Animal Care and Control and maintenance work at the Vera Yates Homes in Ford Heights, which is managed by the Housing Authority of Cook County. Workers are also cleaning the exteriors of the Cook County Jail, doing janitorial work in jail buildings, and cleaning jail transportation vehicles.

Detainees are sentenced to VRIC, previously known as Boot Camp, by a judge as an alternative to prison. It is a two-phase program. The first phase is a four-month residential program where detainees live, work, and attend classes in a military-style boot camp setting. After they graduate the residential portion, they take part in an eight-month post-release phase, where they are no longer residing at the facility, but are required to be on electronic monitoring, physically check-in with VRIC staff about employment or schooling, and take drug tests.

To provide more structure during that second phase and an opportunity for participants to give back to society, the Sheriff since October has required those in the post-release phase, who do not have verified employment or schooling, to report to VRIC three days a week to participate in various work details. Currently, 136 post-release participants are part of these work details, which are supervised by Sheriff’s officers.

Sheriff Dart plans to expand the VRIC work detail program to include more projects that will continue to benefit the community and save taxpayers’ money.

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