TALLADEGA, Ala. – Last month, the Alabama Department of Corections announced the decision to close the Childersburg Work Release Center and repurpose other facilities due to a “critical shortage of correctional officers” and other issues.
Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the plan is a three-pronged approach, which prioritizes resources for recruiting, pursues an increase in officer pay and allows the department to increase correctional staffing levels by merging operations within the department.
Called the Alabama Prison Transition Initiative, the plan would close down the Childersburg Work Release Center by March 2018. ADOC will move some of the inmates from the work release center to St. Clair Correctional Facility and will continue supporting governmental agencies in Childersburg and surrounding communities. Remaining inmates will be moved to other minimum custody level facilities. Staff currently assigned to the work release center will be offered positions at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville and other facilities.
The facility will be repurposed as a Life Tech Transition Center, mirroring the one already operating successfully in Thomasville, and will provide vocation, education and life-skills training to parolees who are preparing their transition back into society. The innovate approach of the transition center will increase the state’s ability to provide re-entry services and reduce recidivism.
“This is just one example of our collaboration with ADOC in our continued commitment to Alabama criminal justice reforms to advance public safety through the reduction of recidivism. We will use this facility to further our mission for rehabilitation of individuals to meet these goals,” said Cliff Walker, Chairman of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
On Monday night The Talladega County Commission unanimously voted to approve a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and other state officials voicing its concern over the closure of the center.
Below is the approved letter:
We’ve recently been made aware of Commissioner Dunn’s plan to discontinue operations of the Childersburg Work Release Center as soon as March, 2018, as a part of the Alabama Prison Transition Initiative. Mayors and County Commissions from across four counties, along with representatives from Central Alabama Community College and Talladega College met this morning to discuss the potential negative impacts to our respective communities. We would be remiss if we failed to express to you our strong opposition to this closure and to make you aware of, and quantify, the substantial negative impact that would be realized by Talladega County and the other entities represented at this our meeting.
In an economically depressed time, local governments and educational institutions in our region have come to rely on the inmate labor provided by the Childersburg Work Release Center in maintaining our public facilities and infrastructure. The Childersburg facility is centrally located and reasonably accessible to those in the Talladega, Coosa, St. Clair, and Shelby County region. Loss of this valuable resource would mean that cities and counties in our region would either have to replace that labor, at a cost of over three million dollars annually, or simply cease maintaining our infrastructure and facilities. Either way, it’s our residents who will suffer, and when it comes to maintenance of public roadsides, they will notice.
Later in the letter, Cities and organizations that use labor from inmates reported the negative financial impact of losing the free labor. Below are dollars lost by the removal of the local work release center as reported by the cities and organizations themselves:
- Childersburg: $420,000
- Talladega: $400,000
- Sylacauga: $230,000
- Harpersville: $90,000
- Vincent: $90,000
- Talladega College: $650,000
- CACC: $230,000
- Chelsea: $100,000
- Talladega Co. Commission: $425,000
- Pell City: $189,000
- Oak Grove: $275,000
Citing in a resolution that economic conditions over the last ten years have negatively impacted the financial resources of local governments in the region, the Talladega Co. Commission signed a resolution on Monday night imploring the Alabama Legislature to maintain operations of the Childersburg Work Release Center.