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PORTSMOUTH (AP) -- Portsmouth's sheriff is closing his inmate work-release program due to escapes.

Sheriff's office spokesman Lt. Lee Cherry tells The Virginian-Pilot that 18 inmates will be affected by Sheriff Bill Watson's decision to end the program.

Cherry says Watson's alternative work-crew program will continue. Inmates participating in that program do yard work under the supervision of armed deputies.

There have been several escapes this year. The latest incident occurred last week when an inmate left the sheriff's work center, where he was supposed to remain if he wasn't working.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

AP-WF-10-08-12 0705GMT

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