Albany- Six prison system diversion centers, including two here in south Georgia, are closing. The centers are used as alternatives to prison, but the state says they're under-utilitized so they're doing away with the majority of them and adding two thousand prison beds.
By the end of June, the Albany Diversion Center will close its doors, so will the Thomasville Diversion Center. The Department of Corrections says its part of a restructuring to cut two percent from their budget.
"We found that the diversion centers had been underutilized so we decided to close the six," said Susan Phillips, Georgia Department of Corrections.
"One of the reasons our facility was closed was because even though the number of employees remains constant that our occupation level was only at 65 percent, heck If I'd known that I would have emptied the jail," said Chief Judge Loring Gray, Dougherty County Superior Court.
Right now, the Albany Diversion Center has 70 probationers, the Thomasville center has 50. Those who haven't served their time before June 30th will be transferred to the remaining four Diversion Centers.
"If there's any still left in the center they will be moved to other centers," said Phillips.
Judges say having the center here in Albany was an excellent way to punish someone for a nonviolent crime, but still allow them to contribute.
"They allow us to put someone in confinement, under restrictions, and yet they're still paying taxes, they're still paying child support, they're paying for their own room and board at the facility," said Gray.
The Department of Corrections says Albany's 26 employees and Thomasville's 18 won't be left jobless, but will be used to fill other open positions within the system.
Closing the six Diversion Centers is expected to save the Department of Corrections a half million dollars.