By Caroline Wigmore
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN - Cleaning up litter? Landscaping? Post-storm clean-up? Whatever the mess, crews from sentence to serve in Wright County have probably done it.
The program is available to non-profits and entities funded by the state.
“With the downturn of the economy, a lot of organizations are turning to us for help,” Lloyd Stephens said, crew leader for the sentence to serve program in Wright County.
Stephens leads teams of minor offenders all over the county, doing work that ranges from cleaning and painting at the Wright County fairgrounds, to county park upkeep and much more.
Those who serve on Stephens’ teams are minor offenders, who have met a series of guidelines, which include being non-aggressive, and non-sexual predators.
“A lot of these people may have an outstanding fine, didn’t have car insurance, or other such offenses,” Stephens said. “The program is not a punishment as much as a chance for restoration, and a time to repay the community in a way other than just writing the county a check.”
The Sentence to Serve program spends half of its time serving non-profit organizations and the other half serving the county.
The crew does a big service in Howard Lake in the spring and summer, grinding branches that locals have hauled into the compost site. Wood chips are then made available to the public.
Stephens works with the crew that serves at the Wright County fairgrounds. Dennis Beise, fair secretary, had nothing but good things to say about the sentence to serve work crew, that diligently washes windows, picks up litter, puts garbage cans and tables away, cleans barns, cuts weeds, paints, and more.
Beise, praised the crew for its service to the community.
“Lloyd Stephens and his crew of workers are by far the best group I have ever worked with,” Beise said.
“A year ago when the wind storm took down trees and left a mess, with the Garlic Festival being held at the fairgrounds only days away, Lloyd and his crew of workers were able to be there cutting up trees, hauling them away and doing whatever was needed to get the fair grounds cleaned up. Without their help, I don’t know how we could have been ready for this event,” Beise added.
Lately, the crew has spent a lot of time working on the new Wright County Jail, located in Buffalo. They have been doing everything from construction to clean up, and will continue doing lawn maintenance and landscaping in the summer months to come, which Stephens says is a big savings to the county.
“Most leave the crew with favorable feelings towards the program,” Stephens said. “I’ve had some kids on the crew who have done litter clean-up and have said ‘I’ll never litter again.’ A lot of other people go away saying they didn’t even know there was a park in that spot that they worked, or that they learned a lot about how the Wright County Fair is run.”
The program is never short on work, according to Stephens, and it also answers calls in other counties when it comes to emergencies such as flood or storm damage.
How to get help from Sentence to Serve
To qualify for services from Sentence to Serve in Wright County, an organization must either be a non-profit, or funded by the state.
For more information, call the Buffalo Department of Corrections, at (763) 279-0355, to speak with crew leader Lloyd Stephens.
Meeker, McLeod, and Carver counties also offer this program. Information can be obtained by contacting the county sheriff.