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County hires new warden for prison
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Effingham County commissioners have hired a veteran of the state’s corrections organization to be the next warden at Effingham County Prison.

Commissioners have tapped Billy Tompkins to be the warden. Tompkins’ first day on the job will be Dec. 28. The prison has been without a permanent warden for more than year and a half.

“We recently had new concerns brought to our attention and immediately began to aggressively address a proactive solution,” said County Administrator Toss Allen.

Allen said Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie recommended Tompkins, a retired warden with a track of problem solving. Tompkins spent 37 years in the state Department of Corrections at multiple facilities.

“The board of commissioners all agreed they wanted to move quickly with someone they felt has the experience to address the concerns being raised,” Allen said.

Inmates sent out on work crews reportedly had been returning to the facility in various states of inebriation.

Since Ronald Spears’ resignation, following allegations he sold confiscated cell phones and kept some of the money for the employee benefit fund but allowed his son to sell other contraband cell phones. Deputy warden Vickie Brown has been acting as the interim warden since March 2014. Spears was named warden in February 2003 and the facility was named prison of the year by the Department of Corrections in 2011 and 2013.

The prison houses a maximum of 192 inmates and has a staff of 36 employees. County commissioners approved a capacity agreement with the state at their Dec. 15 meeting. The agreement will go into effect Feb. 2, 2016, and expire June 30, 2016, in order to align with the county’s fiscal year.

“We feel confident the new warden will be able to address any concerns raised, as well as make operational changes to be more efficient and provide better service to the agencies we serve, and he has the full support of the board to do so,” Allen said.

The prison has inmate work crews that are sent throughout the county and elsewhere. Pembroke has had an agreement with the county for a work crew.

The city of Rincon approved an inmate work pact with the prison in August. In May, an Effingham prisoner walked away from a work detail in Liberty County. He eventually was re-captured.