North Idaho Inmates Shoveling Snow For The Elderly

SANDPOINT — The snow is certainly keeping inmates in Bonner County busy. The sheriff’s office is putting sentenced inmates to work shoveling snow for senior citizens and the disabled.

For each shovel full of snow it’s another minute, another hour, another day outside from behind bars. One of them is Patrick Waldrop, who is serving time for violating parole.

“I wouldn’t suggest anyone go out and do something and go to jail,” Waldrop said. “Some days pretty hard, depends on how much it snows.”

The inmates started shoveling snow when it started to snow about a month ago. They make about 38 stops a day. One of their stops is at Virginia Bartlett’s house.

“My birthday is January 1st, 1911. That would make me 97 years old,” Virginia said.

She can’t go out in the snow to shovel it and she has plenty of visitors stopping by, from Meals on Wheels to the mailman and friends who use her walkway. That’s where the inmates come in to help make sure her meals, mail and friends can get through.

Sergeant Bob Van Buren runs the inmate labor program; he drives the bus and also pitches in to help out when he can.

“I did it yesterday with them and it’s a pretty tough job,” Sgt. Van Buren said.

The labor program started last year and Van Buren says that inmates who work during their sentences are less likely to return to jail.

“No one’s ever run for it,” Sgt. Van Buren said. “I give them opportunity the first day … if you’re going to run do it â??cause that way I don’t have to worry about them.”

The inmates don’t get paid but they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the time.

“Actually time goes by faster … in jail it’s like solitude,” Waldrop said.