Smith County "Trusty" Program Suspended - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/30/04 - Smith County

Smith County "Trusty" Program Suspended

A program that benefits hundreds of thousands of East Texans could be in jeopardy.

The Smith County Sheriff's Department has, for many years, provided free inmate labor to dozens of local non-profit groups, but since December, that practice has been halted.

From the East Texas Food Bank, to the Salvation Army, dozens of groups take advantage of the program. This summer, the Texas Rangers looked into whether worked done by the inmates was legal. The Sheriff's Department says it's that investigation that led to the suspension.

While no one was charged, they say they want to make sure the program is clean, and they want the State Attorney General to help them decide. Until then, groups that depend on the inmates are being forced to do without.

The District Attorney has to formally request the Attorney General's opinion. There's no time frame on when that could come back.

More than 70 groups are affected by this suspension. The Sheriff's Department does say if the Attorney General decides the program is legal, it would start it back up immediately.

Chris Gibson, reporting

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