Jackson County

Can you work as well as an inmate? Jackson County needs to know

KAREN NELSON/SUN HERALDInmates with the MDOC Community Work program in Jackson County help with landscaping in Pascagoula in March. The state discontinued the program in Jackson County on Friday.
KAREN NELSON/SUN HERALDInmates with the MDOC Community Work program in Jackson County help with landscaping in Pascagoula in March. The state discontinued the program in Jackson County on Friday.

PASCAGOULA -- Jackson County is hiring to fill the gaps created when the state closed the inmate Community Work Center program in Pascagoula.

The county's Human Resources director calculated what the county needs to make up for the loss and came up with 14 full-time equivalent positions.

The county had more inmate workers, but they were not full time, and they were more helpers than actual general laborers, HR Director Janet Krebs said.

The new hires will be workers for recreation, roads, solid waste and the golf course.

The pay is $9 an hour and so far, the job only lasts 4 1/2 months -- until the end of the county budget year. That's what the Board of Supervisors approved, since the state Department of Corrections closed the CWC abruptly on Friday and the county needs help right away.

Supervisors said they will revisit the issue later for the next budget year.

Krebs said they start advertising for workers Tuesday.

County leaders said inmate workers are crucial to picking up tasks, but cities like Ocean Springs that uses 16 inmates, have said the loss is crucial to maintenance, Public Works, office work and landscaping.

Ocean Springs and Pascacgoula haven't said how they plan to fill the gaps, buy Mayor Connie Moran has said it's going to be expensive.

It will cost the county $210,000 to fill in the labor gaps until the end of September and about $480,000 a year after that.

We need Andron Meters

The MDOC paid for the inmate work program and the county and cities got the workers without cost. The inmates worked to help reduce their sentences. When the state closed Jackson County's center on Friday, the inmates were moved to other locations, the state said in a press release.

But on Monday, Danny Glaskox, the head of Jackson County's Election Commission, said they have trained their inmates to handle vital election duties -- mainly efficiently setting up and taking down expensive and technically sensitive election machines.

Glaskox said they had three inmates and it took them nine months to get one of them, Andron Meters, trained properly to make sure elections run efficiently.

He asked county leaders to find Andron Meters and see if he can finish his sentence helping the Election Commission.

The machines are heavy and the Election Commission needs someone they can trust. They said it would take the county another nine months to retrain such workers.

Election Commissioner Jerry Sims said, "You don't have to supervise him or micro-manage him or tell him what needs to be done."

And Sims said they trust Meters to pick people from the prison system to help him with the work.

Supervisors said they would look for Meters, but couldn't promise anything.

Supervisor Randy Bosarge said he hopes the county will consider acquiring the CWC building to perhaps try to revive the work program in the future, it it's cost effective.

He and he believes the move to close the centers was rushed, with the new state corrections commissioner taking over.

Supervisor Troy Ross characterized the state move as well-meaning but done before all the consequences were considered. He said that by closing the latest centers, the state was trying to save $3 million, but the cost to the cities and counties to replace the labor force could reach $30 million to as much as $300 million if more centers close.

A year ago, the state had 17 inmate work centers. Now is has 11 and has said it likely will close more. The centers in Harrison and George counties are still open.

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