Budget woes are forcing Hall County government to cut back on a lot — even free labor.
As the Hall County Correctional Institute anticipates losing four positions next year, Warden Avery Niles said there will likely be fewer inmate work details around the county.
“We’re going to cut back on the officers themselves and that’s going to decrease the number of details that go out and perform those services,” he said.
“It’s just a reduction in staff that impacts those particular outfits.”
Right now, each of the prison’s 240 inmates take part in some type of work program, Niles said.
Some are part of the interior workforce, but others leave the facility and help with odd jobs around the county.
Inmates typically work 40 hours a week at the Chattahoochee Golf Club, various parks and for the city of Gainesville, Niles said.
“These are state sentenced inmates,” Niles said. “They are serving their time out here in Hall County and they provide a workforce for the Hall County government.”
Most prisoners are required to work as part of their sentencing, but Niles said they tend not to complain.
“They enjoy it. ... They get a skill set while they’re out there performing their task. It gets them out of the building and helps them pay their debt to society,” he said. “When they get ready to get out in the free world, (the program) provides a skill set so they’ll be a better-equipped person going back into society.”
But the inmates aren’t the only ones who benefit from the work programs.
“It’s great for the county and municipalities that use them because it’s basically pretty cheap labor,” Hall County
Commissioner Billy Powell said. “The only real cost of a work detail is the guard.”
But Powell said the cuts can’t be avoided.
“It’s a necessary evil,” he said. “We have to trim.”