Effingham County commissioners have renewed the capacity agreement with the state Department of Corrections for the Effingham County Prison.
Under the agreement, the county will receive $20 a day from the state for the inmates at the county prison, which can hold up to 192.
Effingham County Prison is a medium-security facility and had 187 inmates as of last week, according to deputy warden Vickie Brown. The Department of Corrections is down about 6,000 beds across the state, she said. The state has been consistent about giving the county the number of inmates allowed under the contract.
The state passed a law to allow a judge to sentence inmates to county time instead of state time, Brown said, and sheriffs complained about having a backlog of state inmates.
“It’s not really helping us one way or the other,” she said.
The county prison has only one county inmate who otherwise would be in the county jail, and Brown said she has an empty dorm of 64 beds. At the most, it has housed 12 county inmates over the past two years.
“It’s been empty for close to a year,” she said.
The air conditioning and the power have been turned off for that unoccupied dorm, Brown added. There are four dorms in the prison.
The one county inmate, Brown said, was in Chatham County three weeks ago. He was sentenced in Effingham and he had charges pending in Chatham.
Brown said the staff at the prison has been reduced by 12 with the opening of the new county jail.
All the inmates work either inside or outside the prison walls, Brown said. Inmate work crews are sent to the Georgia State Patrol, the Senior Citizens Center and to any city agency that requests inmates. Another crew of inmates and one officer are sent to Pembroke four days a week for 10 hours a day.
The city of Pembroke pays for that crew and officer to cover its cost.
There are 21 inmates who work in the prison kitchen with Aramark, the food service contractor. Inmates also do the laundry for the prison and the jail and also wash the sheets used by the Effingham EMS.
County community relations director Adam Kobek said the county asked about the possibility of getting up to 250 inmates but was told that was not likely to happen. Brown said if they had 250 inmates, the prison would be warehousing inmates.
“(They) would just be sitting there all day long,” she said.
The state has an early-out clause but no such provision exists for the county, explained assistant county attorney Elizabeth Pavlis. If the county decided to end the agreement, it would take several months to close the facility.