In 1993, Jerry Bohm came to Redwood County to work in a newly developed program that was intended to give those who had been convicted of a crime a chance to give back to the community by doing a little bit of hard work.
Called Sentenced to Service (STS), the program was new to everyone involved, including Bohm, who admitted he knew very little about the criminal justice system when he applied and started his career, which would last nearly 25 years.
“When I started this job I didn’t know the difference between prison and jail,” Bohm said, adding, however, no one else who was involved really did either.
Bohm did not have a background in criminal justice.
In fact, before he moved into the role he was working for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture as a grain inspector in Windom. When the decision was made to privatize that role, Bohm had to look for a new job, and having some administrative experience in his previous role opted to apply for the STS job. He has been the only STS crew leader Redwood County has known, and over the years thousands of hours of community service have been performed by hundreds of people guided by Bohm.
As of this month, Bohm is officially retired from his role with the STS program, and he said the past several years in that position have been very rewarding. He has been able to work with lots of different people in the community and, through physical labor, was able to help make a difference.
Whether it was painting in the school or helping clean up Plum Creek Park, the STS crews under the guidance of Bohm, did their tasks and did them well.
Bohm said STS programs are different from one area to the next, as they take on the character of the one who is leading them. Bohm’s dad was a painting contractor, and so he had quite a bit of experience in that area. So, work performed in those tasks always looked “pretty good.”
“You can do a lot with masking tape,” Bohm said with a smile.
When the position first began, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) and counties split the costs 50-50, but in 2011 the DOC decided it would only cover 25 percent of the cost.
So, after 30 years as a state employee, Bohm’s job changed. He became an employee of Redwood County, which took over coordination and operation of the STS program. Bohm said he got a new boss, Randy Hanson, Redwood County sheriff, adding he had a great working relationship with the sheriff over the years.
Bohm admitted at age 66 the time to retire has come, but he added that doesn’t mean he is looking forward to the idea of retirement.
“I need to stay busy,” he said, adding even though he may be retired one can be sure he will not be sitting still. “I will find something to do.”
Bohm said he will definitely miss working with the people, including the DOC staff who share office space with him. He said working with those who have been sentenced is also something he will miss.
“I think most of the people who were on my crews enjoyed being able to get out of jail for a little while,” said Bohm.
In the early years of the program, Bohm said he and the crews were able to get out into more communities and help in a lot of areas.
The STS crews are still able to work in different areas, such as the county museum, as well as at Gilfillan and the regional recycling center. The crews can also be found cleaning up ditches along local roadways.
“I enjoyed meeting different people and getting to know them,” said Bohm. “I looked at the people on my crews as employees. I interacted with them, and they would talk about all kinds of stuff. I got to know some of them very well.”
Bohm said he has lots of humorous stories from his days working with STS crews, adding one time when they were painting one of the crew members came down from a ladder and put their foot into the paint. That individual then proceeded to walk across the floor to tell Bohm what had happened tracking paint all along the way.
In more recent years Bohm said he has seen a change in the people who are on his crews, adding the work ethic is just not the same.
Bohm appreciated the DOC staff, adding over the years they became like family, and those relationships are something he will always cherish.
“We have gone through the ups and downs of life together,” said Bohm. “We have become a tight-knit family. I feel very lucky to have worked with all of them.”