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Commissioners want to take a look at closing prison
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Effingham County commissioners have asked county staff to weigh closing the Effingham Prison, though a thorough analysis may take a couple of months.

During Wednesday morning’s workshop, commissioners again pressed the matter of possibly closing the prison as they discussed funding for various road and building projects.

“We’re looking at a cost benefits analysis of refurbishing it or closing it,” County Administrator Ed Williams said. “But that’s going to take a couple of months.”

The county has about $2 million left to pay on the prison —it was renovated in 2001 — “and then it’s ours,” Chairwoman Verna Phillips said.

Closing the prison was first broached at the commissioners’ June 5 meeting. Commissioners approved a contract with the prison to hold 250 inmates yearly, but they also asked county staff to take a look at the cost effectiveness of the prison.

First District Commissioner Hubert Sapp suggested considering closing the prison and turning it over to the sheriff’s department for administration and jail space.

Williams offered the idea of moving the sheriff’s administrative arm into the Department of Family and Children Services building if that becomes vacant. The county jail has been plagued with problems since its construction 14 years ago.

“He could expand the jail into the (then open) administrative space,” Williams said, “and he’d have some relief.

“No matter what happens with the prison, we have to do something with the jail.”

The prison is a Level 2 facility, meaning all inmates are classified as medium security or lower. According to the state Department of Corrections, Level 2 facilities are primarily county-operated institutions with heavy emphasis on work details.

Williams explained to commissioners when they initially discussed closing the prison that the original idea behind having the prison was to have free labor. All inmates at the prison are able to work outside its walls.

About Effingham Prison
• Constructed: 1914
• Capacity: 250-state, 6-county
• Opened: 1925
• Security level: Medium
• Renovated: 2001
• Mission: Provides housing for state and county inmates and a general labor force supporting Effingham County government.