Decatur County has increased the standard rate for providing inmate labor to other local governments from $40,000 per year to $50,000 per year, but it’s a move that at least one customer was not satisfied with.
The Cairo Messenger reported in its June 3 issue that Grady County Commissioners were considering not renewing the contract to receive inmate labor from the Decatur County prison because of the proposed cost increase.
We talked with Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar Thursday afternoon and he confirmed that Grady County was looking at other options, such as getting inmates from facilities within Grady County. Tobar said Grady County primarily uses the inmates on work details with the Grady County Road Department, where they were the most needed. However, Grady County also pays the cost of a vehicle and fuel to transport the inmates from Bainbridge to Cairo, on top of the $40,000 it currently pays for 10-12 inmates per day plus a prison guard to supervise them.
Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove said the increase from $40,000 to $55,000 would apply to all of its inmate labor contracts going forward. He said Decatur county officials had determined it costs about $42,000 per year to employ a full-time guard to supervise each inmate crew, taking into account salary plus benefits. The difference between $42,000 to $55,000 was to give Decatur County some contingency in the event it had to pay for additional medical care for inmates who are injured on work details.
“We were essentially subsidizing the cost of the inmate labor we were providing to customers, so we felt it necessary to recoup the costs we incur,” Breedlove said.
Tobar said Grady County commissioners are also facing a tight budget and felt they could not take on the added cost. According to the Cairo Messenger, the Grady County Jail Administrator had stated there were not enough available trustees at the Grady County Jail to create a work detail.
Decatur County also provides inmate work crews to the Decatur County Board of Education, the City of Cairo, Seminole County and the Georgia Department of Transportation. Breedlove said letters explaining the cost increase were sent to customers whose contract was up for renewal. For now, the City of Cairo and Seminole County will continue to pay $40,000 per year until their contract comes up for renewal, he said.
Breedlove said the City of Bainbridge in the past had been using two crews of inmates from the Decatur County Prison, using its own guards. However, he said there has been a proposal for the county to begin providing two of its guards, as the city’s guards were nearing retirement.
“We’re glad to provide inmates to other local governments,” Breedlove said. “The more inmates that get out working, the less people we have incarcerated in the prison, possibly inactive.”
According to Breedlove, Decatur County Prison Warden Elijah McCoy and his staff carefully screen the records and interviews with inmates before allowing them to go on work details. Some of the inmates have experience in construction or use of heavy equipment, and Decatur County actually employs a team of inmates who have been trained as certified firefighters.
Right now, county inmates are making repairs to the county’s EMS building on Airport Road to get it ready for use by a private ambulance service, Grady EMS. Some of the projects that county prison inmates have helped work on over the years include construction of the county’s agricultural office building, pre-renovation demolition of the County Administration Building and the National Guard Armory, and assistance with the renovation of Bainbridge City Hall.