Weighing the good and bad with corrections institute closure

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2017

In May, the Troup County Board of Commissioners made the decision to close the Troup County Correctional Institute in order to fund raises for county employees.

Over the last seven to eight weeks, the decision has been given mixed reviews on social media, as expected. Some argue that the raises are much needed and lower the odds that a county employee bolts for another, higher-paying position in another county.

Others worry about the litter pick-up, grass cutting services and additional work that will have to go on without the 300 work release inmates that used to call the correctional institute home. 

There’s been a lot of talk about the closure, but now it’s a reality. 

As of Thursday, there were no inmates left within the Troup County Correctional Institute. 

The inmates were cleared out over a week before the June 30 deadline, which leaves nothing in doubt during this final week.

Most of the dorms inside the building will remain empty for now, but the rest of the facility will be used. It will house county inmates and the county work release program, the public defender’s office and the county extension office, so at least it won’t be sitting vacant.

A total of 68 employees were laid off when the commission decided to close the correctional institute.

All but 11 of those employees have either found new jobs or retired, and the county has played a large role in that. Hopefully the other laid-off employees will soon also find full-time jobs.

Cutting out the prison and state work release programs saved the county an estimated $1.57 million annually.

The sheriff’s work release program, which is much more limited, is taking up some of the slack left behind by the approximately 300 inmates that used to pick up trash, janitorial duties and much more, but it remains to be seen if approximately 40 inmates can do the work that used to be done by hundreds.

We understand the concern many raise about garbage piling up in certain areas and the grass growing tall.

All of us want our county to look nice and clean, and trash on the side of the road and uncut grass isn’t the look we want visitors to see.

At the same time — on the other side of the coin — the raises were overdue and well-earned.

Even a small bump in pay can make a big difference and possibly keep our valuable employees here, instead of crossing the county line for higher wages.

With that said, there’s a lot of criticism being placed on the commissioners for this decision.

Some of that may be fair. We believe the decision was made for the right reasons, but it could’ve and should’ve been publicly discussed with city governments before the decision was unexpectedly made. 

The commission made the decision during a work session, and the public had no idea it was coming, since it had not been explicitly mentioned during any previous meeting.

All of that criticism is fair, but the decision has been made now, so the focus should be on the future.

At this point, it’s too early to know how well this is going to work out.

The first reaction is to point to a section of uncut grass or a street lined with litter and complain, but we just ask that you give it a little time.

Maybe the county’s work release program will pick up the slack, and there isn’t a substantial difference in how everything runs. Or, the opposite could end up being true.

The point is this — it’s still way too early to know.