published Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Georgia cities, counties renew contracts for inmate work crews

  • photo
    A Walker State prisoner works to cut the grass at the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department on Tuesday.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
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The grass is growing so quickly these days, you can almost watch it happen.

At City Hall in Fort Oglethorpe, "Hollywood" handles the lawn. He's an inmate from Walker State Prison in Rock Spring, Ga. The city spends $39,500 annually to have a crew of prison workers come from Monday through Thursday to do tasks such as mow grass, pick up trash and run string trimmers.

"It's a pretty good deal for the city," City Manager Ron Goulart said.

Fort Oglethorpe is among several Northwest Georgia municipalities that recently renewed their contracts with the Georgia Department of Corrections. Walker County did, too. And the Catoosa County Commission was expected to approve a similar contract at its meeting Tuesday night.

"We have some ditches that need cleaning out," Interim Catoosa County Manager Ann Cain said.

The inmate crews work alongside county public works employees to remove debris from stormwater ditches, she said.

"They do a good job for us," Cain said.

In Walker County, inmate crews are used to pick up trash along the roads.

"We think it's worth our money," Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said. "[Trash-strewn roads] used to be my number-one complaint."

The fee charged by the state is used to cover the cost of having a corrections officer watch the work crew, Goulart said. Dabney Weems, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections, wasn't able Tuesday to provide information about the work crew program.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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