County puts inmates to work
“It’s great to get out and do something besides sitting in jail . . . and doing something good for the community,” said an inmate as he completed a painting project at the Agri-center on Friday. “It’s giving back – all of this here is a part of rehabilitating. We’re all trying to get our lives in order. When we get out, we’ll stay away from doing the wrong things and, instead, do right.”
The program, under the direction of Jail Administrator Captain Tim Gainous, was instituted in January when female detainees took over responsibility for cleaning services at the Grady County courthouse and other county buildings.
Prior to the sheriff’s office providing cleaning services, the county contracted with a private company to provide the inside upkeep at the courthouse for an annual cost of over $40,000, according to Grady County Dist. 3 Commissioner Charles D. Norton.
The sheriff’s work detail is currently refurbishing the Grady County Agri-center and providing all labor to complete the project. According to Capt. Gainous, the sheriff’s office procured tile in discontinued patterns for the 3,300 square ft. Ag-building at a large discount. He estimates a $7,000 cost to the county, and savings of $13,000 on materials and labor.
In addition to replacing the floor tile and carpeting, the work crew painted the inside of the building, replaced all ceiling tiles and repaired the roof for water leaks.
“It’s like OJT – on-the-job training. We could use these skills when we get out. You know, everything’s constructive. We’re all trying to better ourselves,” said an inmate in response to the lasting benefits of the program.
“I trust them, they trust me,” Gainous says with conviction. “We try to get out every day.” Although on most days the male inmates spend 8-10 hours on work detail, he says his crew has worked until 2 a.m. on jobs that had deadlines for completion.
The work detail is strictly voluntary. Inmates must show they can be trustworthy and request to take part in the program. Capt. Gainous says an inmate becomes eligible to participate when he becomes a trusty, “based on their behavior and their charges.” One inmate said his assigned detail is “laundry,” which requires him to begin his day at 4:30 a.m. three days a week before leaving the facility for sheriff’s work detail.
Beginning in mid-March the male crew targeted the inside of the courthouse and adult learning center, staining the woodwork and painting interior walls. The female work detail then applied polyurethane to all woodwork on the second floor of the courthouse and recently moved to the tax commissioner’s office to seal stained woodwork. In addition to refurbishing county buildings and offices, work details have cleaned roadside areas and taken on various landscaping projects.
Capt. Gainous reported the next project scheduled for the male work detail is to pour concrete slabs at the Agri-center and EMS grounds to support two large generators acquired through the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) “1033” program.
Gainous says his secretary Janice Lashley supervises the female work detail and is also responsible for ordering cleaning supplies and paper goods for all the buildings. “It’s a big job with a lot of responsibility,” he says, regarding the important role his secretary plays in the operation.
If Lashley is unable to supervise courthouse-cleaning services, detention officers Berlisa Baker and Stephanie Harris provide the services.
“We need a county camp,” contends Capt. Gainous, “for short-term felonies of one or two years. Rather than have them (inmates) sitting in a county jail, they could be out there cutting grass and cleaning the ditches. He noted that Grady County operated a work camp in the past and Bainbridge currently has one in operation.
Dist. 3 Commissioner Charles D. Norton says he has always been an advocate for a sheriff’s work detail and appreciates the efforts being made to save the taxpayers money. “I’m proud that it happened because that’s been a goal of mine since I’ve been on the board, noting the 40 thousand-plus dollars paid annually for janitorial cleaning services at the courthouse prior to employing the services of the sheriff’s work detail. The county is now supplying cleaning chemicals and supplies only, “So we’re saving a big chunk (of money),” he said.
Norton also applauded improvements at the Agri-center and the Adult Learning Center. “They’re doing a great job. I have to take my hat off to them,” Norton said.