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Sheriff: Work farm venture could save $2 million

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Jan. 24, 2001
Lauderdale County moved a step closer Tuesday to creating a state inmate work farm, a venture that could save taxpayers more than $2 million annually.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie, who was recently authorized by the state to increase state inmate population from 38 to 100, visited Forrest County's state inmate work farm Tuesday see how that system works.
With him were Lauderdale County supervisors Craig Hitt and Ray Boswell, and Lauderdale County Detention Facility administrators Maj. Doris Callahan and Capt. Jim Stephens.
Sollie said he and jail officials would like to pattern a Lauderdale County work farm after the Forrest County farm and the state inmate work farm of Hinds County, where inmates grow their own food.
Callahan said the Lauderdale County facility currently houses 50 state inmates who work as trustys. Those jobs would cost taxpayers, at $5.15 per hour, about $11,500 a week, she said.
Inmates work on such labor details as the kitchen, road crews, courthouse annex, central garage, laundry room, sheriff's office, archives and maintenance, she said.
Coupled with the $20 a day reimbursement from the state, taxpayers are saving roughly $18,500 a week, she said. As the population of state inmates increases to 100, county taxpayers stand to save nearly $2 million annually in labor and reimbursement costs and even more if inmates grow their own food, she said.
Sollie said officials have not determined a site for the proposed farm site, but several ideas have been mentioned such as county-owned land at the Northeast Industrial Park and land located off Old Highway 80 West.
Several housing sites also have been mentioned, such as unused space in the former jail above the Lauderdale County Courthouse and unused floors in the courthouse annex.
State inmates assigned as trustys are those that have been convicted for non-violent offenses only.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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