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When did Hall County first start the correctional camp for inmates? How many locations have there been and where were they?
It is unclear when the first Public Works Camp was started in Hall County. The oldest evidence we were able to find was a photograph of inmates taken on April 4, 1928, at a work camp, which was then on Stringer Avenue near what would become Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville.
The photo was given to Reggie Forrester, who was warden at the Hall County Correctional Institute from 1979 to 1982, by a former employee of the institute.
The correctional institute is the modern successor to camps such as the one pictured. It was first built in 1963, Forrester said, and has remained in its present location, albeit with additional facilities built later, on Barber Road in Gainesville. The institute originally operated under the name Hall County Public Works Camp.
According to The Times archives, 62 working prisoners were moved to the camp from the Hall County Jail, which was used as temporary housing for the prisoners until a new facility was built.
At the time, the facility was modern and included a kitchen, dormitories, a barber shop, a machine shop and pens for hogs and bloodhounds.
“The camp is cool, clean — almost hospital clean, spacious and modern,” wrote Tom Bradbury in a 1964 Times article. “Somehow the old stereotypes just do not apply.”
The facility held 140 men, who were initially segregated by race, until it was expanded to hold 210 men in 1980. It held mostly people from the Hall, Habersham, White, Banks, Dawson and Lumpkin county area.
Things did not always run smoothly in the correctional institute. In 1979, inmates staged a sit-down strike over complaints about old clothes, a lack of toothpaste and soap, inadequate hot water supplies, poor recreational programs and a need for more vocational training.
A district superintendent for the Department of Corrections was called in to mediate between the warden and prisoners. After navigating 10 pages of complaints, the conflict was resolved.
Today, the correctional institute houses 240 inmates, and the state pays the county $20 per day, per inmate, according to the Hall County website. The inmates work for a variety of government departments including Parks and Leisure, Road Maintenance, Resource Recovery and Solid Waste, as well as Gainesville City Public Works and Parks departments.