County prison receives top award

Published 3:50 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2012

POSING WITH THE Decatur County Prison’s award for the Georgia Department of Corrections’ 2011 County Prison of the Year are Deputy Warden Gordon Screen, Deputy Warden Anita Johnson and Warden Elijah McCoy.

The Decatur County Prison has been honored as the 2011 County Prison of the Year by state corrections officials.

Decatur County Prison Warden Elijah McCoy accepted the award, which is given each year to one of 25 county prisons operating in Georgia, on Tuesday at the Georgia Department of Corrections’ annual awards ceremony in Forsyth, Ga.

Warden McCoy said he believes the award is one of the highest the Decatur County Prison has ever received, since opening in 1955.

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“Receiving this award tells me that my staff are doing what they are supposed to do and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” the warden said.

Department of Corrections officials give the award after evaluating prisons on several factors.

The fewer major incidents — such as escapes, stabbings and fights — the better, said McCoy, who reports incidents to state officials when they occur.

Prisons also get points for how clean they are and for being well-organized in their record-keeping and other aspects.

“[State officials] come to inspect us and look at our paper trail to see if we’ve been following the rules and regulations they set for us,” McCoy said. “They also look at whether you have implemented any programs for inmates.”

Some of the programs McCoy has set up at the Decatur County Prison include religious services for a variety of faiths, as well as educational programs.

“We’ve just started a reading program where Bainbridge College students come out and work with the inmates on their reading skills,” he said. “When they complete the reading program, I let them go into a program that helps them study for their GED.”

Inmate trustees also are involved in a number of community improvement projects, including everything from litter pickup to building and grounds upkeep, general construction for government agencies, firefighting, landfill operations and road maintenance.

McCoy acknowledged that running the 225-bed prison is a team effort; his staff consists of uniformed guards, counselors, administration and business management and a food service.

Joining McCoy on his trip to Forsyth were Deputy Warden for Security Gordon Screen, Deputy Warden for Care and Management Anita Johnson, chief counselor Delois Burns and business manager Brenda McGriff.