Letter to the Editor: Delaware County sheriff Tom Mills responds to "chain gang" story

Editor's note: Recently, I wrote about a press release sent by Delaware County Sheriff Tom Mills's office, concerning a voluntary inmate work program at the county jail. Our story -- entitled "Delaware County sheriff nostalgic for chain gangs" -- pointed out a couple of paragraphs that Watershed Post publisher Julia Reischel and I thought were inflammatory.

I don't often make personal comments on stories, but since our story has now become part of the story, I'd like to say that I think that the discussion in the comments -- which was overall quite thoughtful and respectful -- has been good for everybody. I know it has for me.

"It is never “uncool” to look for the good in others, because when you do, you’ll usually find it," Sheriff Mills writes below. Very true. And I'd like to commend Sheriff Mills for being so forthcoming and willing to engage with the discussion. Bravo. --Lissa Harris

To the editor,

I have read with interest the comments made as a result of my recent Press Release concerning resuming the jail’s work detail. I would like to thank Ms. Harris in advance for allowing me to add my comment to those of her other readers.

First: I apologize for any lack of sensitivity I exhibited. Be assured it was not my intention to offend anyone. Secondly, I appreciate the expressions of support tendered by people from various walks of life and experiences. I was both surprised by the number of comments and warmed by the expressions of genuine concern.

As for the comments that were uncomplimentary, I benefited from the criticism expressed there as well. I thought the responses addressed a wide spectrum of interpretations, which I found very interesting.

I should have mentioned that it will not be necessary to hire any additional employees as a result of the resumption of the work detail. We will maintain coverage by simply readjusting or redeploying jail staff as activity permits. That was a good point – and one that we considered.

Participation on the work detail is on a voluntary basis only and those chosen shall have exhibited good behavior and be classified as low-risk offenders.

Soon our inmates will get some more fresh air because we are planning on asking them to plant a jail garden. The vegetables they grow will be nutritional and the project will put a dent in our food budget as well. Any surplus crops will be donated to area food banks.

I was pleased to read that many of the comments reflected on the inmates’ perspective. I think the inmates who have volunteered their services to the community would be pleased to know that their efforts were met with appreciation. It is never “uncool” to look for the good in others, because when you do, you’ll usually find it.

Very Respectfully,

Tom Mills

Delaware County Sheriff