It used to be on any given day Houston County would have plenty of jail trustees working on a project. A lack of those workers is starting to cost the county money.
No one really envies the tasks of an inmate worker, and apparently, neither do the other inmates. A lack of precipitation in the program leaves workers like David Cochran all alone on the job.
“I normally have anywhere from 6 to 8 trustees at a time,” Cochran says. “Now, we only have two. We still do the same things we normally do every day, it’s just the other crews are short."
Exactly how much money must be allocated to pay for jobs like trash removal, or ditch service, County Engineer Mark Pool says in the past three weeks in March, the county has spent over $12,000 dollars.
“Well, instead of us having to hire people we use free inmate labor,” Pool said. “I mean we pay just a basic labor. $9 dollars an hour, and when you add the 41%benifit package that gets you up to $12 something an hour.”
So, why is it that we now have a deficit in workers, when we have a surplus of inmates in the county jail? Officials say it has a lot to do with the nature of crimes.
Capt. Antonio Gonzalez, with the Houston County Sheriff's Office says it’s, "Not a population problem. Some people just don't wanna’ work, so they don't apply. Some people abuse it. Another aspect would be the persons that we're arresting. People that are a danger to the community of course have no opportunity to go out for work release."
Gonzalez also says there are plenty of inmates who want to work, but their past offenses take them out of contention. So, for the meantime, work will be hard to find.
It seems that unless the requirements change, or the inmates themselves take the program more seriously and take advantage of it, then this current issue will remain.
Pool says the cost of labor will continue to rise as long as operators fill in for trustees.