Inmate labor uncertainty may mean more hired help

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Uncertainty over the availability of inmate labor through theLincoln County Jail has prompted one area official to suggest thatpaid maintenance help may be needed for her agency.

During Monday’s Lincoln County Board of Supervisors meeting,Eleanor Monroe, director of the Brookhaven office of the Departmentof Human Services, said she appreciated the assistance of the boardin the past. However, based on the unknowns posed by aninvestigation of the Lincoln County Jail, she suggested the boardreconsider a previous policy regarding janitorial services.

In the past, the county had hired a janitor that was sharedamong several agencies. Several years ago, Monroe said, inmate workcrews took over the duties of cleaning the local DHS building.

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“The prisoners in the jail have done us an excellent job. But Iunderstand that’s up in the air right now, so I wanted to remindyou that we may need some help,” Monroe said.

Some inmate work crew programs may be suspended with the removalof state inmates from the local jail after a Mississippi Departmentof Corrections investigation.

An order allowing state inmates to be housed at the jail expiresAug. 12. MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps has said he will not issue anew order to authorize the jail to house state inmates.

Sheriff Wiley Calcote has said some work programs will continueregardless of the MDOC decision.

In the meantime, some agencies are left wondering whetherinmates will be available to continue providing cleaningservices.

“Right now we have no one,” Monroe said.

She requested the board consider hiring at least one person toclean the department two to three times a week. DHS must bedisinfected two to three times a week because of health concernsand the agency’s clientele.

The hired janitor could be shared among agencies which hadbenefited from the services provided by inmates, Monroe said. Thejanitor would replace three inmates who had been assigned the task,she said.

“We would prefer two people, but I think we can get by withone,” Monroe said.

Monroe requested no increase in direct county budget assistancefor DHS activities.

The board also heard a request from the South MississippiChildren’s Center for $1,500. The center, which works through DHS,is the only emergency center south of Jackson that acceptsrunaways, homeless children and those in state custody from outsideits home county.

The $1,500 request was based on previous allocations and thepercentage of children the center serves from Lincoln County,according to the center’s director.