Stone County Inmates Help Salvage Timber

Stone County inmates are helping salvage some of the timber knocked down by Hurricane Katrina. They're busy turning storm damaged trees into valuable lumber.

A vocational program for prisoners, now offers a lesson in processing logs.

Kerry Keller mans the "Wood Mizer L-T 40." The portable sawmill turns pine logs into useable lumber. "Wood Mizer" of Indiana brought a portable sawmill to Stone County as part of its storm relief efforts.

"Trying to help out with hurricane relief wherever we can. This sawmill and edger is set up to try and reclaim some of the timber around," said company spokesman, John Hicks.

Stone County inmates are getting a hands on lesson in lumber processing. Running the sawmill is now part of the vocational training program.

"It's taken me about one day of instruction to learn it. It's really an easy piece of equipment to use,"
said inmate Kerry Keller.

He and his fellow inmates appreciate the training opportunity.

"You've got a lot of people who don't have a lot of skill for doing manual labor or any other type of stuff. This gives them a chance to learn a trade that they can take to the world and use when they get out," he said.

There is plenty of timber to salvage. More than 80 percent of Stone County is forest. And Hurricane Katrina knocked down thousands of trees all across the county.

Logs from the Mississippi Forestry Commission are being processed just outside the prison yard. There are some restrictions about using the prison work crew.

"We can cut timber for the county, city or the state with inmate labor. But we cannot do it for the private sector," explained warden Dwain Brewer.

Whatever timber is processed at the prison will boost the amount of useable wood products already in short supply.

"And that would help out a lot to reclaim some of this and put it right back into rebuilding down here," said Hicks.