Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Inmate Work Camps Targeted; State Wants to Spend Millions to Expand Them

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Inmate Work Camps Targeted; State Wants to Spend Millions to Expand Them

Article excerpt

Byline: VICKY ECKENRODE

ATLANTA - State corrections officials want to send millions of dollars to counties to expand county work camps as the number of inmates continues to grow.

The Georgia Department of Corrections is requesting $24 million for its budget for next year for a grant program to help convince some of the more than two dozen county-run facilities to add space for more prisoners.

Like all state agencies, the corrections department is in the process of turning over its budget needs to the governor's office for review.

Gov. Sonny Perdue will decide whether to include it and other requests in his budget recommendations before the General Assembly next year.

Corrections Assistant Commissioner Brian Owens said there are several steps the project has to clear, but added that if the full amount is approved it could be used to add 1,000 additional beds at existing facilities.

The state offered similar grants in the late 1990s to make room for 1,300 more inmates at the camps.

While the state system has cut down on the number of inmates overstaying their time in county jails by expanding prison space in the past year, the overall prison population is not dropping, according to corrections officials.

"We need to build more county beds," Commissioner James Donald recently told members of the Board of Corrections.

The work camps are made up primarily of state prisoners, but many also include county inmates as well. The inmates, who are considered medium-security status or below, work for free for the county on jobs like maintaining roads and parks, operating equipment or cooking meals for the local jail.

The facilities fall under the county commission instead of sheriff's office.

Billy Tompkins, warden of the Bulloch County Prison, said his facility now has 147 state inmates and 23 county inmates. …

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