MDOC closing 4 community work centers
by Rory Doyle
Apr 26, 2013 | 2541 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Mississippi Department of Corrections is planning to close four of its 17 community work centers, effective July 15.

In a MDOC press release, Commissioner Christopher Epps said, "Tough times make you make tough decisions. A budget shortfall and fewer non-violent inmates eligible to be housed at community work centers are the reasons for the decision."

Rosedale's facility, commonly referred to as the Bolivar County Community Work Center, will be one of the four to close its doors.

The center typically holds between 75-100 inmates.

Local municipalities, which utilize inmate labor to work with governments, agencies and schools, greatly benefit from the program.

Those involved, incarcerated for light offenses, can be seen around the county cutting grass, picking up trash, performing janitorial work and assisting at local schools.

One inmate even played an integral role in the major reconstruction of the Bolivar County Courthouse in Rosedale.

Offenders already at the closing centers will be transferred to other MDOC facilities and staff will be offered positions at other locations.

Bolivar County Board of Supervisors President Andrew Williams said the move would be a big blow locally, as the workers help with jobs across Bolivar County.

"The labor they provide probably saves the county about $2.5 million in wages," Williams said. "They do the labor and the jobs that nobody has the budget to pay for.

"We're talking about some of them who are really skilled workers."

Williams said many local leaders, including mayors, law enforcement officials and elected officials, are planning to meet at Rosedale's center on Tuesday morning to come up with a plan to convince MDOC to keep the facility running.

Rosedale Mayor Carey Estes agreed the program is a big asset.

"A lot of people are concerned," said Estes. "We need the help of our inmate laborers, not only in Rosedale but across Bolivar County."

Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Judson Thigpen said the chamber has depended on the workers for a number of major events, including Octoberfest, Italian Festival and Crosstie.

"It's unfortunate anytime you lose a labor like that, especially since we've been able to rely on them for some time," said Thigpen. "We're going to have to fill a void for those events.

"Obviously this will be a setback and it's going to effect a lot of people and groups. It's going to start hitting the pocket book."

The platform also makes a significant statewide impact.

Offenders in the community work centers contributed $17,772,600 in free labor to local, county, state and non-profit charitable organizations throughout the state during the 2012 fiscal year.

A goal of the MDOC is to provide the greatest amount of public protection while making the most efficient use of the state's resources. 

"Being a good steward of taxpayer money is part of my responsibility as commissioner," said Epps. "Closing these four facilities will save taxpayers about $2.3 million."

MDOC will also close Yazoo County Community Work Center in Yazoo City, Jefferson County Community Work Center in Fayette and George County Community Work Center in Lucedale.