State Says Prison Labor Will Remain Available After Whitworth Switch

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

The Georgia Department of Corrections says that it will offer prison work details once Whitworth Detention Center in Hartwell changes to an all-female facility.

The prison is currently a male facility, but will be switching to an all-female prison.

Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said that the community work that has been provided by offenders will stay in place.

Hogan did say the Department of Corrections is also looking at bringing in male prisoners from another facility, saying that it has not yet been determined if those females will take over and do that work or if the DOC will be getting male offenders and will bring them to the community to do that work.

Toccoa, Lavonia, Hart County, Hartwell, and Royston all contract with Whitworth for prison labor, along with counties and municipalities throughout Northeast Georgia.

Toccoa uses one crew from the prison for jobs like picking up litter, janitorial work, and working on rights-of-way, at a cost of about $39,500 a year to the city.

City officials said they would to use a female crew from Whitworth once the switch is made if that is what was available.

However, that is not the case everywhere.

Lavonia City Manager Gary Fesperman said they have no plans to use female prisoners because of the potential problems it could cause having female inmates working alongside male employees.

Lavonia budgets about $150,000 a year for prison labor details, which includes about $38,000 to pay the prison guard’s salary plus a van and other equipment.

Prisoners from Whitworth are non-violent parole or probation violators and are used by local governments from Rabun to Oglethorpe counties and their respective municipalities to do jobs they would otherwise have to hire people for.

The prison labor is not free, but is offered at significantly reduced fees – typically just the cost of the prison guard’s salary, a van to transport the prisoners, and additional equipment they might need.