Prison inmate work pays for facility

Published 2:48 pm Friday, April 10, 2009

As you go through your daily routine in Decatur County, you may take notice of a number of state prisoners working at various locations throughout the area; but did you know the work being done basically pays for the prison to remain open?

Decatur County Prison Warden Elijah McCoy provided The Post-Searchlight with some insight into how the prison functions and the amount of work being done by its prisoners each day.

The prison is a minimum to medium security facility that on average houses between 280 to 325 prisoners. The prison holds 225 prisoners that are brought in from other parts of the state through a contract Decatur County has with the State of Georgia. The county received $20 a day for each of the non-local prisoners, bringing in more than $1.6 million annually.

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Last year, the prison operated on a $3.7 million budget provided by Decatur County—the difference between the two figures brings the prison’s cost to Decatur County taxpayers to a little less than $2 million each year, according to McCoy.

He explained that the amount of work done for the county, along with funding brought in from contracts with Decatur County cities, surrounding counties and the Department of Transportation, more than covers the $2 million operational cost—making the facility virtually self sufficient.

Each day, the inmates are awakened at 5 a.m., and by 7, between 150 and 200 are loaded onto buses to go to work at the various locations in Decatur County and the surrounding counties.

The majority of inmates do grass mowing and agriculture maintenance, road work, janitorial work, maintenance work and cooking (for the prison).

Locations and departments where inmates work include virtually every Bainbridge City and Decatur County facility, from the Bainbridge sewage treatment facility to Memorial Hospital and Manor.

Inmates with specialized skills are not put to waste, according to McCoy.

Inmates with skills in mechanics are utilized at the county and city’s mechanics shop providing upkeep on various government vehicles, including the school system’s buses.

He said inmates also pick up valuable skills through a number of the jobs they take part in. There are maintenance details that do numerous jobs that build inmate’s skills. For instance, a maintenance detail is currently doing roofing work on the Courthouse Annex in downtown Bainbridge.

Inmates also pick up skills working at the Decatur County solid waste facility, which is for the most part maintained by inmates, according to McCoy. He said the inmates work at the facility five and half days a week and a number of inmates learn to run heavy machinery like bulldozers.

Inmates have even built an entire building. In addition to doing maintenance and construction work on various Decatur County buildings, inmates actually constructed the entire Blackjack Volunteer Fire Station from the ground up, said McCoy.

McCoy said if the amount of work being done by inmates each year was contracted out to other businesses, it would far exceed the approximate $2 million in taxpayer money used to keep the prison open.

Inmates can go beyond picking up skills, they can obtain their General Education Development diploma (GED) and even enroll in a program through Bainbridge College.

McCoy said there is also a (GED) program offered at the prison with an outside instructor, funded by the county, brought in to tutor inmates. Twelve inmates have received their GED’s since they began offering the program, said McCoy.

In the fall of 2007, Bainbridge College began offering a two semester Customer Service Certificate Program, funded by financial aid programs.

“The program helps students that are incarcerated gain customer service skills, service industry training, social skills and other resourceful strategies that will help them when they are released,” said Christina Jackson, customer service program coordinator for Decatur County. With an average of 20 inmates receiving the certificate each semester, she said more than 60 inmates have received the certificate since the program’s start.

“If I’m proud of anything, I’m proud of this program through Bainbridge College,” said McCoy. “It gives them (inmates) a sense of urgency, going into class instead of remaining idle. They can come out of here with skills and training.”

Locations and departments where inmates work

• Bainbridge City and Decatur County Road departments

• The Georgia Department of Transportation (in Decatur County and surrounding counties)

• Cloud Livestock Facility and Decatur County Fairgrounds

• Memorial Hospital and Manor (and their satellite offices)

• Bainbridge-Decatur Humane Society

• City of Bainbridge Purchasing Office

• Decatur County Health Department

• Decatur County Industrial Park

• Pines Golf Course

• Seminole-Decatur County Training Center

• Board of Education food storage facility

• Bainbridge sewage treatment facility

• Decatur County solid waste facility

• Georgia State Patrol Post 14

• Bainbridge City Purchasing Office

• Bainbridge City Hall

• Decatur County Courthouse

• Bainbridge Public Safety Department

• Decatur County Sheriff’s Office

• The City of Climax

• Decatur County Prison