By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
The Georgia Department of Corrections Whitworth Detention Center in Hartwell will be switching from a male incarceration facility to an all female facility.
That news is causing some financial problems for counties and municipalities in Northeast Georgia that depend on Whitworth’s male prison labor to supplement their personnel and budgets.
Hart and Franklin County governments and municipalities were recently informed of the inmate change over at Whitworth by the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Prisoners from Whitworth are non-violent parole or probation violators and are used by local governments from Rabun to Oglethorpe counties.
At last Tuesday’s Hart County Commission meeting, several departments that use prison inmate labor were present to ask they be allowed to hire personnel to replace the prison workers.
Hart County Administrator Jon Caime said the cost to the county if they lose those workers will be significant.
“We have three (inmates) at Solid Waste, two at the Road Department, two at the Recreation Department, as well as maintenance workers,” Caime said. “There are essentially eight full-time labor positions and to replace those positions at $9 an hour is about $30,000 apiece. So there’s $240,000 worth of labor we stand to lose.”
Caime said it will be up to the Hart County Board of Commissioners to decide how to fill the void left by the loss of the prison labor.
Lavonia budgets about $150,000 a year for prison labor details, which includes about $38,000 to pay the prison guard’s salary plus a van and other equipment.
Lavonia City Manager Gary Fesperman said they are looking at a number of different options on how best to use that money.
“The mayor and I have been working on this for about a week now,” Fesperman said. “We might look to contract part of this out, such as grass cutting, and then hire in a couple extra folks to take up where we need expertise that a contractor might not work. We’re going to have to look at possibly doing a custodial hire to take care of those types of duties.”
One option would be to use female labor from Whitworth, but Fesperman said Lavonia has no plans to do that.