Drop jail costumes for roadside crews

Beaufort County's Detention Center director can let the community know people are under his watch without resorting to cartoon-like garb to make the point.

Jail director Phil Foot said, "My philosophy is that if they have to do the program, people will know they're serving with me."

But the image created by people clad in black-and-white-striped costumes working along our roadsides isn't exactly the one our tourism marketers are going for. Deep South chain gangs are not the lasting impression we want to impart, and that's what this will conjure, with or without the chains.

And is shaming someone really conducive to improving future behavior? Very doubtful. The reasons people end up in trouble with the law at this level probably have little to do with prospective punishment.

The Detention Center recently took over supervising the court-ordered community service program from the county's Public Works Department. The change comes after the county passed an ordinance creating a "Day Watch" program as an alternative to incarceration at the county level. The ordinance states, "Each individual engaged in performing public service will wear an orange or yellow fluorescent vest with Beaufort County Detention Center or BCDC printed on the back." There's no mention of black and white stripes. Foot says the vests will be worn over the striped suits.

As outlined in the ordinance, Foot will charge $15 for the community service program and $5 a day to cover the cost of supervision and transportation. A charge wasn't levied when Public Works supervised the roadside cleanup program.

The bottom line is that the community service program can achieve its goals without the black-and-white striped costumes and the negative image they create.