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County OKs prison capacity agreement
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Effingham County commissioners have approved a capacity agreement with Effingham County Prison, though commissioners still have questions on what benefits the prison provides.

The annual capacity agreement is due to the state Department of Corrections by July 1, and the agreement calls for 192 state inmates to be housed at Effingham County Prison.

“The question is, and always has been, is this really a benefit to have the work camp in the county?” asked Commissioner Steve Mason. “Do we get anything out of it?”

“That’s been discussed every year for 10 years,” said Commissioner Reggie Loper.

The prison sends work crews out each day for six and a half hours, not including travel time, said deputy warden Vickie Brown. About 165 inmates leave the prison each day on work details, and the remainder are put to work on tasks inside its walls.

The work crews have assignments in the county and also are used by Bryan County.

Contracts with Pembroke and the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens have expired.

Brown said the prison puts a value on the work detail at the lowest paid county employee or at minimum wage.

The number of inmates is down from 230, and the total maximum capacity is 256.

Brown said they have emptied one dorm, which has been turned over to the Effingham County Jail for its use.

“It’s not feasible to reduce it anymore,” she said of the capacity.

There are items in the new capacity agreement the prison has been doing anyway, Brown said. The prison is tracking offenders brought in and out through the state’s SCRIBE system. The prison gets $20 per day for each inmate it has.

“Once they are transferred in, we have to add them to our count,” Brown said. “Once they are transferred out, whether they are going to court or going to another institution, we have to record that.”

The prison’s annual budget is about $3.2 million, and approximately $1.4 million comes back from the state. The prison’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2013, which ends June 30, was approximately $3.4 million.

The state also will pay for inmate medical expenses over $1,000, and Brown said inmates with more serious conditions are removed from the prison.

“We look at ways at getting them transferred,” she said. “We work pretty well with the medical department of the Department of Corrections.”

Commissioners also approved a contract for the prison to provide GED preparation and testing to its inmates. The prison pays for the test, and Savannah Technical College provides the instructor.

“We are required to offer GED classes for all the individuals who need it,” Brown said. “At one time, we had to transport them to the board of education for the test. The teacher was on the payroll, and now the teacher is funded through a grant from Savannah Technical College.”

Effingham Prison
A capacity agreement allows for 192 state inmates at the facility. A 2012 agreement reduced the number from 220 to 192 at the medium-security facility. It has a maximum capacity of 256.