Thomas Co. Commissioners vote to close prison
THOMAS CO., GA (WALB) - Conditions at the Thomas County prison have deteriorated over the years.
Commissioners said a decision had to be made on whether to keep the prison open and build a new one or to close it all together.
As of right now Thomas County is one of only 23 counties in Georgia that still has a county prison.
Commissioners in Thomas County voted 5 to 3 to shut down the prison, effective June 30th 2017.
The Thomas County Prison employs 29 people and houses 185 inmates, most of whom work for the county as part of the inmate labor program.
The Prison was built in 1922.
Saying goodbye is bittersweet but commissioners said it had to be done.
"I don't have any question about whether we will survive and maintain this and survive and save money," said Ken Hickey, Commission Chairman.
Back in April plans were presented to the commissioners for a new facility. The estimated cost to build it is 5.5 million dollars.
In the budget presented on Tuesday, commissioners said they will save at least $300,000 a year without it.
"It's falling apart, we've spent a boatload of money on it, with refrigeration, trying to fix the leaks in the roof, dryer, I mean there has been several thousands of dollars poured into there trying to keep the place occupational," said Hickey.
Some of the biggest concerns amongst the community were the prisoners will go and how will the county make up for the labor that will be lost?
County commissioners said they have a plan.
"They will go back to the state and I don't know, they will probably scatter them out, We will be using our labor instead of inmate labor," said Hickey.
As for the 29 employees, county commissioners said they have met with the state and as of right now there are 18 jobs openings that employees can apply for in this region.
Those who choose to stay until June 30th will receive a 3 months severance pay.
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