By Joel Hall
According to Clayton County Prison Warden Frank Smith, the county's prison has more beds than it has inmates, and officials could use the extra labor for duties throughout the county.
On Tuesday, the warden is expected to ask the Clayton County Board of Commissioners to allow the prison to take on more state inmates, in order to maximize the prison's space and take advantage of the labor inmates can provide.
According to Smith, the county's current agreement with the Georgia Department of Corrections allows for the county prison to receive up to 226 state inmates. For the past year and a half, however, the prison has had the bed capacity for 242 inmates.
Smith said the state has already agreed to allow the Clayton County Prison to take on 16 additional inmates. He said he would ask the county to follow suit, on Tuesday.
"One of our missions is to provide labor to departments and cities as well as to do all of the things that the county calls on us to do," Smith said. "The most notable are [the] Parks and Recreation [department] and the [Clayton County] Water Authority. In order to maintain all of their water treatment plants ... it requires inmates to do those jobs and right now, we are underserving them. The same goes for Parks and Rec. They have a lot of ball fields they have to maintain. Right now, we're not giving them what they need."
For more than 10 years, Smith said, the county prison has contracted with the Department of Corrections to house 226 state inmates. The state pays the county $20 a day, per inmate, for agreeing to provide room and board for the inmates, he said.
"A year and a half ago, we increased the number of beds by 16, with the idea that the Department of Corrections would be able to send us more prisoners," Smith said. "There was just a matter of putting a double bunk on four of the beds in all of the dorms. We were at that point [of receiving more inmates]," however, "they had budgetary problems last year, but this year, they felt that they were in a position to do that."
Clayton County Parks and Recreation Director Detrick Stanford said that in the past, inmate labor has provided the department with needed maintenance services. He said the department could benefit greatly from being able to utilize more inmates.
"The benefit to the department would certainly be immense," Stanford said. "It would certainly help us for maintenance projects, as well as environmental projects, such as the removal of debris, clean-up of some of the concession areas, as well as [maintaining] some of the ball fields." He said that anytime inmate labor can be used for projects, "we don't have to use a county employee to do that, which helps the county."
Smith said that as of Friday, the county prison was housing 211 inmates in a total of four dormitories. He said the prison has plans, in the near future, to build a fifth dorm using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) dollars.