Inmate labor saves millions - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Inmate labor saves millions

THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) - Inmate labor in Georgia is saving local governments millions of dollars. And it's giving prisoners purpose and direction.

But does is take jobs from free, unemployed Americans?

In some states, inmates never leave prison grounds for any reason. This is not true for many Georgia inmates, as thousands are utilized as free labor.

These individuals work in mechanics, construction, and many other fields. While many of the inmates already possess these skills, others learn as apprentices. "It might spark an interest in them and they'll move on down the road, when they get out to try to pursue something a little bit further on that," said Thomas County Prison Warden Robert Geer.

The big question is are these inmates taking jobs away from the public sector? Geer says that is not the case. "We're really not in competition with that aspect. The county takes care of its county buildings and its equipment."

Five years ago, Thomas County conducted a study using a formula from the Association of County Commissioners.

The results showed each inmate saves the county about $23,000 to $27,000. "Your looking at about a 4.5 almost 5 mil increase in property taxes to pay for that and that's a pretty significant saving," said Geer.

We asked the Georgia Department of Labor if the inmate workforce takes jobs away from unemployed Americans. "The goal is to gain employment and to not so much focus on things that are not positive. Our goal is to focus on what's available," said Thomasville Manager Cynthia Drayton.

Drayton says those individuals who are really aggressive and assertive about gaining employment will take anything that will allow them to work immediately.

Drayton says they currently have 58 job openings in the area.

Copyright 2011 WALB. All rights reserved.

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