Jackson County Times

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Work Regulations for Prisoners are Presented to Commission

Inmate work programs save county over $1,500,000 per year.

By Sid Riley

The inmate work program which has existed for many years in Jackson County was initiated by County Judge Woodrow Hatcher in 1978, and was administered by the now deceased father of our previous Sheriff, John McDaniel. Mr. McDaniel at times used his own equipment, and volunteered thousands of his hours during those years when the program was being started. What he began has served the county well for decades.

However, in today’s world of potential litigation, and an increase in dangers from inattention and abuses, what worked well yesterday does not work well today. For that reason, last year Judge Woodrow Hatcher, discontinued the work release program. He took this action because of increasing laxity of supervision, and increasing misbehavior by working inmates. He felt the risk to the public was too great under the then existing system.

After taking this action, Judge Hatcher appointed a special committee which was commissioned to review the problems, determine the shortcomings of the existing processes, and then develop new protocols for administration of a new, improved inmate work release program.

This Committee was comprised of retired General Jim Hart of Bascom (Chairman) , retired businessman Claude Reese of Greenwood, County Manager Ted Lakey, Rev. Jack Hollis of Marianna, Stacey Goodson a probation and parole officer, Marianna City Manager Jim Dean, Asst. States Attorney Shad Redmon, Chief Public Defender Herman Laramore, Corrections Chief Wayne Lipford, and County Commissioner Chuck Lockey.

The improved procedures involve detailed criteria for screening of inmates to eliminate all candidates who might constitute a danger to the public. Prior arrests and convictions are included in this review. Another section of the program deals with training procedures for the guards and/or county employees who will be given responsibility for leading work crews. This training involved formal classroom training courses.

The group also recommended to the Commission that one additional correctional officer be added to the staffing plan to provide needed additional supervision over working inmates. Commissioner Chuck Lockey instructed County Manager Ted Lakey to develop an implementation plan, with this new position included. This plan will be presented at a future meeting for final approval by the Board.

So, because of the foresight of Judge Hatcher, and the volunteered services of a group of civic minded local residents, our county will now have a well conceived, properly administered inmate work program which works to the benefit of the citizens of the county, our local governments, and the inmates themselves. This seems to be a win-win-win, situation.

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