Sheriff may face opposition on work farm

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
March 16, 2001
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie may face opposition on a proposed work farm for non-violent state inmates unless he can prove the program won't cost taxpayers money.
Sollie told the board of supervisors at a work session Thursday the director at the Hilltop Home for Boys has agreed to donate some land behind Hilltop where inmates could grow crops.
Board president Jimmie Smith said he wants to "look at some numbers."
Sollie said $10,000-$15,000 has come out of the inmate canteen fund this year for inmate clothing, money that didn't have to come out of county's general fund.
He said later canteen funds are generated by selling items such as candy bars to inmates. Almost $32,500 was generated since November 1999, he said. Expenditures such as inmate clothing, TV purchases and repairs for the same period totaled about $29,500.
Smith said Sollie's examples weren't "a real justification because it's supplemented by the general fund."
District 3 Supervisor Craig Hitt asked Smith what types of figures he wants. He said "seed and fertilizer would be the only cost" involved in growing crops. Hitt and District 5 Supervisor Ray Boswell are on a supervisors' work-farm committee.
He said the garden would give some of the female trusties work since they can't do some of the more "physical" labor inmate work crews do.
Sollie said Hinds County works 200 inmates at its work farm. A work program in Forrest County has 100. Both programs are working well, he said. On 65 acres, Hinds County's inmates raised $100,000 in crops for their own meals and made $48,000 more for their budget in sales, he said.
Lauderdale County's inmates wouldn't have that much land though Sollie doesn't know the acreage yet and don't have storage space to keep crops for inmate meals.
An agreement signed last year is expected to give Lauderdale County up to 100 state inmates, but they must be housed at an off-site, low-security facility.
Sollie said officials are considering building it behind the Lauderdale County Detention Facility. He said the inmates would be able to do a variety of jobs.
He said 51 state inmates provided 9,024 hours of service in February. It would have taken $46,473 in wages to accomplish the same work. Lauderdale County was also reimbursed $28,560 for housing the 51 inmates, he said.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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