Neighbors want pre-release center removed - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Neighbors want pre-release center removed

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October 13, 2006

Pelham-  People in a Pelham Neighborhood are furious with the state for turning a juvenile detention center into a pre-release center with razor wire and prisoners.  It happened in June, and in the last four weeks they've seen more fencing and razor wire go up leading to concerns and few answers. 

It's a shocking sight in this quiet Pelham neighborhood. When you round the bend on Mize Street, you encounter a wall of razor wire at the Pelham Pre-Release Center. It's a sight that's keeping Janet McWhite inside.

"I don't come outside unless I'm going to get the newspaper or I have to go downtown, and then I get in the car and I drive and I look at it and I get sick," said Janet McWhite, a neighbor.

McWhite and her husband put up a privacy fence and bushes to block the coils of razor wire added to her neighborhood this summer along with the new Pre-Release Center that opened in June.

"These are basically non violent offenders, but we're here to serve and protect the public and by putting up extra fences help them feel a sense of comfort, showing them that we're trying to take measures to prevent anything from happening while they're here," said Warden Cynthia Nelson, Autry State Prison.

McWhite says the razor wire has caused more agitation than comfort, she's feels the center doesn't belong in a neighborhood with children, but neighbors have found little help in their fight.

"City officials, your governor, your representatives, if they don't do anything if they ignore you where in the world are you going," questioned McWhite? 

The center was once a school, but was sold to the state who first used it as a youth detention center for girls. It's not the only state run pre-release center in a neighborhood.

"We've had other facilities in neighborhoods, this facility was existing here, it's been here ever since 1996, so all we did was take it over from juvenile justice," said Nelson. 

While McWhite understands the need for the program to rehabilitate prisoners, she doesn't want it in her back yard.

"I would like to see it shut down, and once they shut it down, get that razor wire down," said McWhite.

Neighbors hope others might hear their plea and the center might be relocated to a more remote area instead of a neighborhood where kids walk to school. 

Over the last year and a half, Georgia began moving inmates into pre-release centers where they work four days a week in community details and receive counseling before they re-enter society. 

Inmates at the Pelham Pre-Release Center come from all over the state.

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