SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Two South Mississippi counties have agreed to continue to use state inmate work programs without reimbursement from the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
MDOC will begin phasing out its Joint State County Work Program this Saturday as a cost saving measure. Fourteen counties, including Pearl River and Stone, have signed a memorandum of understanding with MDOC to continue to use the inmates for labor at their own expense.
In the past, the 30 counties participating in the joint work program received $20 per day, per offender. The counties will no longer receive that stipend for housing the inmates. They will also be responsible for providing the inmates with alcohol and drug treatment and GED programs. MDOC will still pay for inmates' medical care.
Stone County Sheriff Mike Farmer says he is pleased with the pending agreement, because using inmate labor is cheaper than hiring county employees.
"We want the workers to save taxpayer money," said Farmer. "We will be pleased if we can come to an agreement where we can still use them."
Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said the agreement will affect the county's general fund, but overall, the county will come out on top financially. He is hoping MDOC will be able to send his department 41 inmates for work programs.
"I hate we are losing the revenue, but I'm glad the commissioner is letting us keep them," said Allison.
MDOC Commissioner Marshall Fisher said ending the join work program will save the agency $3.2 million annually.
"We are no longer operating as status quo," said Fisher. "Detractors should anticipate a different way of doing business at MDOC."
Fisher said sheriffs who have signed this agreement are requesting more offenders to put on the work programs, but MDOC can't grant those requests at this time because there are fewer eligible inmates.
"We are in the initial throes of a sea change," said Fisher. "If the current trend of having fewer inmates incarcerated and more on community supervision continues, we must rethink how we are using taxpayer's money."
Inmates in the 16 counties without agreements will be moved to state community work centers. That list of counties includes George, Harrison and Jackson.