Prison system has cut 1,550 jobs as it closes facilities, but lawmakers worried

Georgia Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens said today that the Department of Corrections has shed 1,550 jobs in two years  through attrition as it closes facilities.

Owens, appearing before a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees, ran through a list of ways his agency is saving money in the 57 ,000-inmate system.

Over the course of a year, Owens said the reduction in jobs will save the system $65 million.

However, some of the cutbacks are raising questions from lawmakers, who worry that closing facilities – three prisons are expected to be shuttered in the next year or so – will hurt small-town Georgia.

“Prisons are economic development in rural areas, ” said Senate President Pro-Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons). Williams was one of several lawmakers who pleaded with Owens to take the economic impact of rural Georgia into account when he considers closing prisons and other, smaller facilties.

Afterward, Owens told reporters, “This is the 21st century.  It is the taxpayers’ money. It ought to be a business decision.”

19 comments Add your comment


January 20th, 2010
11:33 am

Love the idea of all those state employees on the unemployment line. Whoops…but we’re running out of unemployment funds. Well then, we’ll have to borrow from the Feds to replenish the state unemployment funds. And then the Feds will have to borrow from the Chinese and the oil kingdoms like we’ve been doing for the past decade. We’re on a slippery slope here, state leaders.

common sense

January 20th, 2010
12:42 pm

I have a rational, effective way to save money for the DOC: Scale back the bloated, ineffective Georgia sex offender registry that restricts and monitors young men who had consensual sex with 15-year-olds the same way it monitors rapists. The registry, which has been shown by every research study done (many of them by state criminal justice divisions) to be ineffective, and even counterproductive, is a way for lazy legislators to spend taxpayer money in the name of protecting our children, although no evidence exists that this is even remotely true. Rare, heinous sex crimes have been sensationalized by the media, and legislators feed off the myth and hype to garner easy votes from an uninformed public who believes that all strangers have the potential to abduct and rape their children. In fact, over 90% of child molestations are committed by close friends and family members. The recidivism rate for sexual offenses is under 5%, the lowest of any category of crime except for murderers.

I have children of my own, and we all want to protect our children, but please spend my money to prosecute, punish, and monitor dangerous predators, and let everyone else get on with their lives. It is a slippery slope for our country: After all, shouldn’t I know when I’m driving next to someone who has been convicted of DUI? Shouldn’t I be informed if my neighbor committed armed robbery? Maybe someone with a DUI should not be allowed to live within 1,000 feet of a highway, and a former armed robber should never be allowed into a store! Of course, we would need to add hundreds of law enforcement personnel to monitor these convicted criminals and to enforce their restrictions.

The state should repeal registry notifications and restrictions for non-violent, low-risk offenders, and concentrate law enforcement efforts on dangerous, violent predators, who are probably not adequately monitored now. Low risk offenders must be allowed to reintegrate into society, to live without harassment and fear, to become productive by getting jobs and paying taxes (or will the state have to support them through welfare — more taxpayer money needlessly spent!)Do we really want sex offenders, such as those in Cobb County, living in the woods? What a nonsensical set of laws and waste of taxpayer money!


January 20th, 2010
12:56 pm

cannot close prisons in rural georgia because that is economic development; i guess it’s ok to cut jobs in atlanta because it is not………..who elected this genius?


January 20th, 2010
12:57 pm

DOC should cut some of the fat in their Central Office, beginning with the Program staff who rarely support the facilities unless the winds of budgets cuts begin blowing. The so called what works deal is not working and shoud be reviewed for further budget savings.


January 20th, 2010
1:13 pm

Get rid of some of the non violent laws. Duh. Some of the drug laws and social behaviour modification laws just don’t work and cost millions.


January 20th, 2010
1:23 pm

If prisons are economic development in rural Georgia, then what is the product, inmates? Wow. In that line of thinking, to keep prisons open you need a continuous stream of prisoners. No wonder why all the non-violent drug offenders get the book thrown at them. The Prison-Industrial Complex is alive and well in Georgia.


January 20th, 2010
1:27 pm

Commissioner Brian Owens should be commended for making decisions without political involvement. Senate President Pro-Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) should keep his mouth shut.


January 20th, 2010
1:37 pm

I agree with the comment that it is a business decision. I also don’t blame Tommie Williams in pleading for the commissioner to take into account the econonomic impact on rural Georgia. He is representing the people of his district that sent him to Atlanta.


January 20th, 2010
1:44 pm

anyone watching the education super, no wonder our state is in trouble….


January 20th, 2010
2:29 pm

He’s worried about small towns, when the rest of us are hurting. It doesn’t make since to keep a prison open just so that small towns are substantiated. They should start looking for other means to make money, just as the larger cities and towns have been doing the last few decades.

If a small town wants to keep thinkg small minded, they can just stand on their own two feet. We are all fighting to survive.


January 20th, 2010
6:05 pm

You guys won’t like it when they turn out all the rapists and murderers and robbers first. They always release them first because they are so “well behaved” in prison, LOL. Of course since all their victims are outside.
As one black female grand juror said in Fulton Co. courthouse many years ago, when a fellow grand juror was lamenting the fact that so many black males were in prison and asked her for solutions, the lady said “build more prisons.” She had been armed robbed outside a mall and the white guy who came to her rescue had been shot.
We should be building more prisons and keeping more prisoners in jail, those who have committed violent crimes.
Now the pardon and parole board could be abolished, and that would save millions of dollars………….and thousands of lives of innocent victims.


January 20th, 2010
6:07 pm

btw Tommie Williams, well, I know what he tried to do once when a state investigator was investigating one of his friends for horse abuse.
He should be defeated in the next election but he’s done a lot of “favors” for his friends.


January 21st, 2010
12:38 pm

Partlycloudy points out why in-prison behavior is so meaningless. People convicted of violent crimes need to be kept in prison. However, 1/3 of our convicts are convicted of non-violent crimes. Those convicts should be moved to in-home monitoring, and they should be made to pay the cost of the monitoring as part of their sentence modification.

Commissioner Owens is not running a work program for rural GA, and I don’t think Williams is asking him to do so. The point being made is that these closings hurt the communities that provide the labor, etc. for the prison, and that this should be taken into account when Owens makes his decisions. I would bet that this was already discussed in his decision process, and they also looked at how to transfer staff to put trained staff into open positions. Do we really think these people are dumb?


January 25th, 2010
10:32 am

Releasing the non-violent offenders would be a step in freeing up bed space for the most violent of offenders. The DOC has a problem staffing those prisons anyway. Why? Because the convicts run the asylum. If a prisoner makes an alligation against an officer it must be true. Officer is then fired! Those officials witth the DOC sits in their ivory towers making decisions by second guessing those whose job entails walking amongst the most dangerous of offenders in Georgia.

Before you critize these officers you need to walk in their shoes. Have you ever had urine or feces thrown on you? it is a common practice in prison for offenders to do this to staff of the prison.

Also, the offenders should be made to work instead of lying around watching tv. They are fed more and have free medical treatment provided to them than the law-abiding citizens of Georgia.

common sense

January 25th, 2010
12:26 pm

I’m sorry, JD, but you don’t know what you are talking about. I know someone who was convicted of a non-violent offense and has been in a medium security prison for a year. He has lost 30 pounds, because on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they are fed only 2 meals, and most of the food is inedible anyway. There is one TV for all inmates in his dorm, and wooden benches with no backs to watch, so watching is not great recreation. There is very limited time for any physical exercise. Most inmates crave work as a way to lift the constant tedium; however, there are very few “jobs,” such as sweeping or cleaning. My friend, who has 3 years of college, has asked over and over for something to do, but to no avail. Also, he must take a daily medication, and for weeks he didn’t receive it. While he told as many people as he could, over and over, they said they would take care of it, but did nothing about it. He has watched two inmates die of heart attacks, because, in the middle of the night, if you bang on your cell door, guards ignore it. So please, our prisons provide effective punishment. what they don’t provide is enough education, counseling, and training, so that it is a never-ending revolving door — incarceration, punishment, release, recidivism.

I, for one, would like my taxpayer dollars to go towards rehabilitation of non-violent offenders through education, counseling, and training, rather than spending it to build ever more prisons. I would also like to stop using my taxpayer money to fund the every-expanding sexual offender registry, which is an ineffective monster that wastes law enforcement time/money on consensual, non-violent offenders, while violent predators are not effectively monitored.

fed up

January 31st, 2010
4:13 pm

Hey why dont we let thoes non violet sex offenders live with you that way we dont waste you our taxpayer money or pay a Guard think of all the money we save!!!

common sense

February 1st, 2010
10:35 am

Enter your comments here

common sense

February 1st, 2010
10:40 am

Well, fed up, I would gladly share my home with my friend’s 17-year-old son who had consensual sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend, and I would provide him with a job if I could, also. I work for a large University System, and I can tell you that these draconian laws are ruining the lives of many young men who are no risk to children. Another student would also be welcome to live with me: Age 21, he visited a legal chat room and ended up agreeing to consensual sex with an undercover detective who maintained for most of the conversation that she was “a couple years younger” than him, and then said, one time, that she would be “16 in a couple months.” He never even went to the public place to meet her, but he was incarcerated. Both of these young men will be on the Registry and will be prevented from ever finding decent housing or jobs, because they can’t live or work within 1,000 feet of day care centers, MacDonald’s with playgrounds, churches, parks, etc., etc. What a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars!

common sense

February 1st, 2010
10:52 am

Well, fed up, I would gladly have the a 17-year-old who had consensual sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend, or the 21-year-old who agreed to consensual sex with the detective ambiguous about her age and never went to “meet” her, live with me. But they must serve jail time and be place on a Registry with restrictions that will forever prevent them from becoming productive citizens, even though they are no threat to children. You can have the man who beats up his wife live with you, since he usually just gets a restraining order.