With less than half of the normal number of state prisoners, Hall County Correctional Institution Warden Walt Davis said they have had to prioritize how the inmates are assigned to work details.
The 240-bed prison on Barber Road in Gainesville typically has 200 offenders, but there are only 96 inmates currently, Davis said Monday, May 17. A yearlong slowdown in the court system due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the prohibition of jury trials until recently has affected Hall’s prison and county prisons across the state, Davis said.
Though the number of available inmates has been reduced for these work details, Davis said they have not cut any details. In a given month, there are more than 40 different work details including recycling, mowing grass and road maintenance.
“All the municipal details and all the county details still have at least an inmate on those details,” Davis said. “And of course, we’re doubling up some officers with inmates, so that we’re having four people go out, with two officers and two inmates. We’re getting the work done. It’s just we’re having to prioritize things.”
A detail seeing priority is mowing, as inmates are cutting grass on the right-of-ways, around county facilities and near the expressway.
Davis said he heard from state officials last week that inmates might be coming to county facilities as early as July 1, but getting back to the normal capacity will depend on how the state chooses to fill the beds.
“The big unknown there is how quickly the courts are beginning to process people through the court system,” he said.
Hall County Superior Court courtrooms have been packed week to week with new trials on serious charges including murder, rape, child molestation and aggravated assault on police officers.
The lack of inmates means the prison is receiving a reduced subsidy from the state. The state of Georgia pays $22 per day per inmate to house inmates in county facilities.
On the other side of the coin, the correctional facility is spending less on food.
“Either way, it’s not a huge amount of money,” Davis said. “It ends up being a wash in the end.”