George County leaders relieved to win fight over inmate labor

GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - George County leaders and residents say they're relieved the state had a change of heart about closing the county's inmate work center. The center provides more than 100,000 inmate labor hours yearly, and was slated to close next month, along with several others across the state.

"Just as happy as I can be," Lucedale Mayor Douglas Lee said of the decision. "I know somewhere down the road they would find a workable solution."

"If this CWC would have been closed, you would have seen effects from your household garbage, to your courthouse maintenance, recreation," Community Development Director Ken Flanagan said.

The center was one of four the Mississippi Department of Corrections, wanted to cut to save money. But doing so would have been extremely costly to George County.

"The money was really between $3 million to $3.5 million in labor that was directly going toward the county and the city, the community college and the non-profits in this county. That is just one year of labor," said Flanagan.

George County leaders lobbied to get the decision reversed.

"This really was truly a team effort. County supervisors worked with city officials, and we were in constant contact with our legislators."

George County also gathered more than 1,200 signatures from folks around town and sent them to the governor.

Resident Marsha Peters, owner of Jacks Home Improvement Center, led one of many petition drives.

"We know how much of savings this going to be for the taxpayers, not having taxes increased for the services," Peters said.

Officials said there are even more benefits to this recent decision.

"The county and the city get thousands of man hours. These inmates also signup for this program because they are non-violent offenders," Flanagan said. "They get a chance to get into the workforce, learn a skill set, and they are not just sitting inside a jail all day. They are contributing to the community."

Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps announced the work centers in Yazoo, Bolivar, and Jefferson Counties will also remain open.

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