Leaders speak out about ending Joint State County Work Program - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Leaders speak out about ending Joint State County Work Program

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

State and county leaders are joining forces to speak out against a plan to end the Joint State County Work Program, which will begin phasing out in August.

The program allows counties to house state inmates, and use them for free labor in their areas.

Currently about 1,000 inmates are serving time, and working, cutting grass and picking up trash. Free services, many cities and counties are set to lose.

County sheriffs held a press conference Wednesday, speaking out against the inmate work program ending.

They stand to lose the most.

They're paid over $20 a day to house and feed the inmates.

Sheriff Peter Walker from Jefferson County says, "I don't see how we can afford it. With the services that were rendered by those inmates we saved thousands of dollars and we depend on them."

Sheriff Harold Jones from Copiah County says, "This could lead to a tax increase for the citizens of the state of Mississippi. It simply doesn't make economic sense and this program, even if ending the program saves MDOC money, which we do not believe that the numbers show, it will cost the citizens of the state of Mississippi."

Leaders say they'll have to pass on the loss of free inmate work to taxpayers, at a cost of $20 million a year.

Ron Welch, an attorney and prisoner advocate says, "The public wants to see inmates out working. They don't want them sitting around if they can give something back, public service, then they can."

MDOC Commissioner Marshall Fisher released a statement saying that "when space is available at state correctional institutions, MDOC is not required to bear the costs associated with housing state inmates in county jails".

Fisher says he's looking at alternatives to keeping the program online.

Some options would be not compensating sheriff's departments for housing the inmates.

Another is counties can request work crews at the state's expense.

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