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Council dumps Autry State Prison, inks contract with Decatur County

City officials fed up with the inmate labor Cairo receives from Autry State Prison of Pelham decided this week to go a new route.
The Cairo City Council voted unanimously Monday night to enter into a new agreement with the Decatur County Prison. The Grady County commission already utilizes inmate labor from the Decatur County Prison and, according to City Manager Chris Addleton, are very satisfied with the agreement.
“It has really gone down over the last year and the real problem happened over the last three months,” Addleton said.
The city’s contract with Autry was for a maximum of 10 inmates and no less than four on four days a week but, according to city officials, fewer inmates were being transported to Cairo to work and some days no crews would be brought in to work.
According to the city manager, the agreement with Decatur County is for a maximum of 12 inmates, but Warden Elijah McCoy said the inmate crews would rarely be less than eight and they guarantee inmate labor five days a week as opposed to four with Autry.
Under the agreement with Decatur County, the medical care/treatment of inmates working here would be the responsibility of the city. After discussing his concerns with the warden, a limit of $1,000 liability was included in the agreement.
City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman said his only concern would be that the city ensure the inmates are provided equipment that has all safety shields and devices in place and are all operating properly.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas pointed out the equipment to be used by the inmates would be just like that used by city employees. “We wouldn’t give them something to use that we wouldn’t ask our own employees to use,” Douglas said.
Inmates are primarily used to cut grass, weed eat and clean, but other duties may be assigned.
Under the new agreement, the city will continue to provide a transport van and will pay Decatur County $46,263 per year.
Autry was seeking a new contract at $39,500 annually for four days service and would no longer guarantee a minimum number of inmates.
“With Decatur County, we have the potential to quadruple what we’ve been able to do with inmate labor,” Addleton said.
The new contract went into effect immediately.
Councilman Douglas questioned how Addleton proposed the city obtain reimbursement from the state for missed work days. The city manager said the city has not paid anything in May and for only two weeks in June, which was “close” to covering what the city was due from the state.
Douglas suggested the mayor write to the Autry warden and state officials to complain about the poor service and explain why the city is not renewing the contract with the state prison in Pelham.
Mayor Richard VanLandingham agreed and asked Addleton to draft a letter for his signature.

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