Privatization plans for workhouse eyed
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Apr 18, 2013 | 584 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Privatization of a proposed workhouse was discussed as an option by the Bradley County workhouse committee Wednesday.

The committee plans to bring information to the full County Commission at a work session in May.

Allowing a private company to run the facility would mean less financial risk for the county during the five-year lease period.

“I’m a proponent of letting private people do it,” Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins said. “Just knowing how things work, over time I could see there coming into this more full-time people (employees) and you wind up now with retirement benefits and insurance benefits on top of what we’ve got.”

The facility would need a manager, two assistants and six corrections/security officers. Elkins said bringing in a private company is a way of avoiding these long-term costs.

Elkins said revenue proposed when the new jail was built has not met expectations. This was based on estimates of payments to the county for housing federal prisoners.

Misdemeanor probation director Rich Kienlen reminded the committee his fee-based department brought in $80,000 over its budget last fiscal year.

“If you remember 10 years ago when we started misdemeanor probation, there were a lot of private companies wanting to come in here and do it ... and we finally did it countywide and last year we gave $80,000 back,” Kienlen said.

Elkins said the misdemeanor probation program did not require a building.

Revenue from the workhouse program will come from a fee charged to the participants and possibly from renting out office space. The fee per day has been estimated at $28.

At capacity, it is estimated charging $28 a day and renting out office space for the proposed facility would bring in $14,074 in net revenue each month.

Fees from participants are paid in the form of money orders because many companies use direct deposit, according to Tony Moore of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.

Committee members discussed whether the facility would be full.

The workhouse program, which would be housed in a prefab building built to last as long as traditional construction, has been proposed as a way to alleviate crowding at the jail.

It would also give judges another sentencing option for nonviolent offenders and child support violators.

Kienlen said the only problem with filling the workhouse facility would come if nonviolent offenders do not have jobs.

“You can have workhouse release for DUI first and second offense right there, there’s a ton of people,” Assistant District Attorney Steven Hatchett said.

“Most of them work, most of them have jobs, most of them want to keep it. Second offense DUI is 45 days in jail. You want 45 days in jail or you want 45 days in the workhouse? They are going to take the workhouse.”

The facility’s proposed design shows a capacity of 128. This includes 100 males and 28 females, according to Monty Alsup of Proteus On-Demand facilities. (The company that would be constructing the building.)

“I think we could fill up within a month, month and a half,” Hatchett said. “We’ve got people we put straight on probation because they don’t want to lose their jobs.”

He said the workhouse could serve as a greater deterrent to repeat offenders than probation without making them lose their jobs.

“It is really a real good alternative course to have,” grand jury foreman Alvin Word said.

Word said he already foresees having to expand on current designs if a workhouse program is implemented.

“We built that (the jail) in ’04 thinking it would last 20 years and we won’t be at capacity,” Kienlen said. “Nine years later, we are over capacity.”

Committee member Max Hughes said the workhouse could also provide programs in the evenings to help those at the workhouse change their behavior.

“This is where you can reach and maybe touch their heart,” Hughes said.

Kienlen said he would like to offer GED programs, anger management, parenting classes and church services.

He said he would like to partner with churches and other faith-based organizations to provide these programs.