Leaders work to save center
by Denise Strub
May 16, 2013 | 1450 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell reported at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting that he and others were doing all they could to keep the Bolivar County Community Work Center in Rosedale open.

On April 25, Christopher Epps, Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner, announced that four community work centers would close on July 15.

One of the four would be the center in Rosedale with the others located in Yazoo County, Jefferson County and George County.

Ray Bell, director of public works, said, “Once that happens we’ll be in world of hurt at public works.”

Bell explained that his department uses about eight inmates from the work center and “even at the bottom of the pay scale, starting out at $8 an hour plus benefits, uniforms and everything, you’re looking at $28,000 per person.

“If this happens our budget goes out the window.”

Bell said the Bolivar County Supervisors are spearing a movement to keep the center open and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson has been helping on what needs to be done.

“The county has to be the front runner as it’s a county facility and the city needs to support the county,” said Bell.

Nowell said city would do whatever it needed to support keeping the community work center open.

The Bolivar County Community Work Center in Rosedale can house between 75-100 inmates, who are booked on lighter offenses, and who are able to work in the county by cutting grass, picking up trash, performing janitorial work and assisting at local schools.

Bell was asked if there were any inmates at the Bolivar County Correctional Facility who could work within the community.

“I asked and was told there are only about eight who fit the criteria,” he said.

Epps said in his April announcement, "Tough times make you make tough decisions. A budget shortfall and fewer non-violent inmates eligible to be housed at community work centers are the reasons for the decision.

"Closing these four facilities will save taxpayers about $2.3 million."

However according to Supervisor Andrew Williams, the inmates save the county about $2.5 million in wages.

"If you estimate 100 workers at each of the four centers and replace them with hourly wage employees with benefits, that's going to cost about $7-8 million," said Williams, previously.

"We will have to replace the labor force and shift the weight locally — increasing the tax burden for us."

According to a MDOC press release, offenders in the community work centers contributed $17,772,600 in free labor to local, county, state and non-profit charitable organizations throughout the state during the 2012 fiscal year.