Work release (or "outmate") is a jail sentence where you are allowed to go to work each day, but otherwise you stay at a county jail. In all the counties in Pennsylvania where I've represented clients, the theory is the same: keeping people working is a better idea than just having them sit in jail. How they accomplish that can vary a fair amount.
This article is how work release happens in Bedford County, Pennsylvania at the Bedford County Prison.
First, you need to have legitimate employment. This means you need to have a "W-2" type job with a conventional paycheck. If you are employed in another manner, you need to be able to document your work. A major reason for this is coverage for work-related injuries. If you are a W-2 ("paycheck") employee, you are covered by worker's compensation. If you hurt yourself, there is insurance coverage so the taxpayers in Bedford County are not on the hook for your medical bills while you recover in prison. If you are not a "paycheck" employee or if you are the owner of the business (and ineligible for worker's comp) you will need to provide proof of a current and valid health insurance policy covering you.
Next, you have to pay some fees. If you are on work release, you are required to pay at least $60.00 every week toward your court costs and/or fines until they are paid off. You will also be charged $6.00 per day that you work. If you work five days a week, then your cost is $6.00 times 5 days for $30.00 plus the $60.00 toward costs, for a total of $90.00 per week.
When you are sentenced to serve time in the Bedford County Prison, you will be remanded directly from court. Some counties allow you to set up a "report date" but Bedford County generally does not. On the day you are sentenced, you should expect to be taken to jail. Sometimes, probation staff will be aware that you want to do work release. Sometimes, they are not. A good idea is for your attorney to reach out to probation in writing in advance of your sentencing hearing to let them know that you want to do work release. Otherwise, there can be delays in getting evaluated and approved for work release.
Once you are at the Bedford County Prison, you need to go through a quarantine process for 2 to 3 days, including testing for TB, confirming that you don't have lice or other bugs or communicable illnesses. When you clear quarantine, you can begin work release IF you can (1) provide a clean, drug-free urine sample and if (2) you have reliable, legal transportation to and from work. Since many cases these days are drug-related, one of the biggest factors delaying people from starting work release promptly is a failed drug test. If you know you are being sentenced and you want to be on work release, make sure you can provide a clean urine sample. Remember that marijuana, for instance, can show up in your urine for weeks after you stop using it.
Transportation must be by a legal vehicle (inspected, insured, etc.) and operated by a driver covered by the insurance and who has a valid driver's license. If your license is suspended, you obviously cannot drive yourself to work from the prison. You will need another person to drive you. You are allowed to have a primary and a backup driver. You cannot be driven by anyone other than those listed drivers. You are allowed to change those people from time to time, but don't try to play games and change drivers every week. It will be viewed unfavorably and won't be approved. Be reasonable.
You cannot bike or walk, even if you work someplace like Defiance Metals which is just a short distance down the road. The prison is on a rural, remote road and walkers/bikers have been involved in near-accidents with vehicles before, so the policy requires vehicle transportation to and from the prison for work release.
In terms of how far from the prison you can work, some counties have a "mileage limit." Bedford County does not. The only rule sort of like that is that you cannot work out of state.
As to hours each week, you are allowed to be away from the prison, including travel time, no more than 12 hours per day. If your work is 2 hours away, and it takes you two hours to get there and two hours to get back and your shift is 8 hours, that would be 12 hours, but nothing better go wrong to delay you. Basically, if you work a regular 8 hour shift with breaks, you have time to drive maybe 45 minutes each way to get to and from work. That will work out fine.
You can only work 5 days a week. It does not matter which five days, but there is a cap of five days per calendar week. Given the 5 day limit and the 12 hour limit on a workday, you can't work insane overtime, but you can work some.
You can work second and third shifts and restaurant hours. If you go to work at 11 pm and get done at 7 am, you can still do work release. The strange shift should not prevent that.
Nobody wants to go to work in an orange prison jumpsuit. The process for dealing with this is to bring three sets of work clothes with you to sentencing. The prison will keep work clothes in the "processing" area for inmates to change into before leaving for work. Laundry is done at the jail, and work clothes will be searched thoroughly before entering jail. Work-appropriate clothing can be dropped off at the jail anytime if an inmate needs clothes or was approved for work release after entering BCP (such as if the inmate was picked up on a probation violation and sentenced a month or two later to a sentence including work release).
Finally, I was not born knowing this information. I had lengthy and detailed conversations with a number of very helpful people, including Keith Bowser and fellow attorney Karen Hickey. Both were generous with their time, as well as being patient with me. They were both very knowledgeable and helpful in explaining details about the program when I had questions, so it would be inappropriate if I didn't publicly acknowledge their graciousness.
For reference purposes, this post was written on September 13, 2017. It was last updated on December 19, 2017. Things change over time, including work release rules at the Bedford County Prison. You should always check with an attorney or with the county to see what the current rules are.