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Clayton County Prison takes top state award

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The Georgia Department of Corrections has named the Clayton County Prison, located in Lovejoy, as the "County Facility of the Year," for 2008.

All 23 county prisons in Georgia were considered for the award, according to Georgia Department of Corrections Spokesperson Kristen Stancil. "This award recognizes county [facilities] that consistently score well on various Georgia Department of Corrections report-card measures -- for example, audits, bed utilization, vacancy rate, turnover rate, and escapes," said Stancil.

Guy Hickman, Corrections' North Area Facility Operations Manager, nominated the county's prison for the annual award. "The Clayton County Correctional Institution impressed me because they focus on job-skill maintenance and job-skill development, for the inmate population," said Hickman. "By providing inmates with marketable skills, while they are incarcerated, I believe they turn out a person who is better equipped to be a productive citizen when released."

Hickman said inmates at the Clayton Prison are assigned to work details around the county, which allow them to gain skills in such vocational areas as automobile repair, carpentry, plumbing, tile setting, water treatment plant operations, and animal control.

"The facility also encourages inmates to complete their high school education. In April alone, they had 12 inmates scheduled to take their GED test," said Hickman.

Clayton County Prison Warden Frank Smith has been a part of the prison's senior management since the facility opened in 1992. He has served as warden for 3 1/2 years, and prior to that, served as deputy warden. He said the award is an honor.

"It helps to validate the staff that they're doing a great job," said Smith, "and that, in addition to my thanks, they have somebody else's -- to have been recognized by the top of the agency, that we are in a state of excellence."

The Clayton County Prison, located at 11420 S.L.R. Boulevard, in Lovejoy, also received the County Facility of the Year Award in 1993, while Smith was deputy warden, Smith said.

He said the prison differs from the Clayton County Jail in that the jail typically houses inmates who are convicted of misdemeanors, with sentences of two years or less.

"When you are convicted for a felony, you go into the state prison system," he said. "We are part of the state prison system. Although this is a county prison, all of our inmates are state inmates," said Smith. "Felonies are what we incarcerate here. They're all convicted of felonies.

"The state built the facility and bought the vehicles and weapons," he said. The state pays the county a stipend to house each inmate, he said, and the county prison falls under the authority of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.

Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said the recent award is due to "the quality of leadership that we have in that institution under Warden Smith. Excellence is his dedication," Bell said. "He has certainly exhibited the kind of quality that the board expects in our county, for our citizens. So, on behalf of the citizens of the county, I applaud him for the quality of his leadership."

The Clayton County Prison is a medium-security facility, with 51 staff members, 242 beds, and currently has 226 inmates, said Smith.

Previous winners of the Georgia Department of Correction's County Facility of the Year Award include the Coweta County Prison in 2007, the Bulloch County Prison in 2006, and the Muscogee County Prison in 2005, said Stancil.