Sheriff responds to possible MDOC trusty program changes

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Mississippi Department of Corrections is putting an end to county inmate work programs effective August 1.
Currently, the state pays participating jails $20 a day per state inmate held within a county jail, and this is money the MDOC feels can be put to better use elsewhere.
According to Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison, cutting the inmate work program will be devastating to the county.
Trusty inmates in Pearl River County work on litter crews, maintenance on county buildings and lawn care on county property, said Allison. Allison’s kitchen staff at the Pearl River County Jail is also made up of inmates who are responsible for preparing 350 meals a day.
If sixty workers were brought in to replace the inmates it would cost an estimated $1.8 million, said Allison.
Allison said his office is working hard to get the state to reconsider.
“We don’t like the fact that they are changing it, and we are doing whatever we can to get them to change their minds,” said Allison.
The Sheriff’s Convention will take place in June in Bay St. Louis, where MDOC Commissioner Marshall Fisher will be in attendance. According to Allison, the work program will be at the top of the agenda.
“The Sheriffs Association is on top of this trying to get it stopped,” said Allison.
The affects of the program’s potential conclusion are being felt across Pearl River County. Heath Stevens, Director of Parks and Recreations in Picayune, said this change would be crippling to his department as well.
“It keeps my cost, and my budget down,” said Stevens. “We saved about $150,000 last year.”
Stevens, who has been working hard to turn Friendship Park into a tourist attraction, fears that without the help of the inmates he will have to scale back some services.
“We are going to have to stop doing a lot of these events because we just won’t have the help,” said Stevens. “I am not sure what the future of Friendship Park is because of this.”
According to Stevens, this change should be an issue of importance to everyone who calls Pearl River County home.
“It is very important for our community that we lobby to our local politicians about this,” said Stevens.

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