MDOC should be expanding work centers instead of eliminating them
My initial reaction to the news that the Mississippi Department of Corrections plans to close the facility that allows inmates to work in Yazoo was selfish.
“How are we going to afford to replace that labor,” I thought.
State inmates provide a valuable service locally by helping keep the cemetery maintained, picking up debris and performing other duties.
Some people refer to this as “free” labor, but it’s far from free. The average cost for a minimum security state inmate (the inmates who present less risk to the public) is $49.50 per day, which comes to $18,067.50 per year. We might as well be sending them to college.
With such significant investments being made, the taxpayers have a right to expect something in return. Nonviolent offenders - all of them - should be expected to work. The small work center operated in Yazoo City provides a tremendous service to this community. The city will likely struggle to fill the void when the inmate labor is gone without either raising taxes or pulling workers from other jobs. I think most Yazooans would agree that the last thing we need is any less attention to any current responsibilities.
I understand that the MDOC must look for ways to save money, and the reported savings from closing Yazoo’s satellite work center are significant. But I don’t see why the MDOC can’t inform the nonviolent state inmates residing at the regional correctional facility in Yazoo that they will be reporting to work in the morning.
“Boys I’ve got some bad news. From now on instead of getting our exercise playing basketball and other games, we’re going to be pushing lawnmowers and picking up trash.”
That would not only give something back to the taxpayers who are spending so much money housing inmates, but it would also give those inmates an opportunity to experience an honest day’s work.
I believe that every reasonable effort should be made to help inmates have a better chance to actually become productive members of society when they are released. Programs to help earn a GED or learn some job skills are worthwhile. The more an inmate can learn, the better chance he has of getting a job on the outside.
Learning that hard work won’t kill you is one of the first lessons many of these offenders need to learn.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on corrections, and I’m sure there would be costs that I haven’t considered. But I don’t see why the personnel currently used at the work center can’t be transferred to picking up inmates at the regional jail and taking them out on daily work assignments.
These costs will be reduced from the MDOC budget, but they will be passed along on the local level. Yazoo City residents are going to tolerate Glenwood Cemetery being allowed to return to the state it was in when the city wasn’t allowed to use state inmate labor. It was disgraceful. Someone is going to have to pick up the tab. Considering that our city leaders were recently trying to figure out why the street department can’t even keep the streets swept, I don’t think Yazoo City is going to be able to take on the responsibility without raising taxes.
MDOC needs to reconsider this decision and look for other ways to save.