Gwinnett gets deal for more state inmates, a boon to county work crews

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Gwinnett gets deal for more state inmates, a boon to county work crews

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AJC staff
In this 2002 AJC file photo, inmates from the Gwinnett Department of Corrections work detail works alongside Ronald Reagan Parkway in Lilburn. FILE PHOTO

A new deal approved Tuesday will allow Gwinnett County to host more state inmates at its correctional facility, a move officials said will provide a much-needed boost to waning prison work crews. 

Those crews perform work ranging from maintenance at county parks to picking up roadside litter.

“The number of county inmates sentenced to the work camp has been on the decline since 2009, which created room to accommodate more state prisoners,” the county said in a news release.

The agreement approved Tuesday by Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners will increase the number of state inmates allowable at the county’s prison by more than 40 percent. The cap on state inmates is currently 158; the amended arrangement will allow for a maximum of 222.

The change will be effective May 1. 

Gwinnett’s county prison is on Hi Hope Road near Lawrenceville. It is a separate facility from the nearby Gwinnett County jail, which is run by the sheriff’s office and primarily houses pre-trial detainees. 

The prison is equipped to house up to 512 inmates but typically holds only about 100 county-sentenced inmates, officials said. 

Gwinnett officials said inmate labor allows the county to save money on lawn and grounds maintenance at government-owned properties, including fire stations and the county courthouse. Work crews also serve local cities and do things like paint over graffiti. 

“Requests for work details to meet the needs of the community is constant and is increasing, so the timing of the agreement in a blessing,” Gwinnett County Department of Corrections Warden Darrell Johnson said in a news release. 

Inmate labor, though, has plenty of detractors.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have called it modern-day slavery. Last fall, a group called the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee organized a protest by inmate laborers that touched states and prisons across the country

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery or involuntary servitude “except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” 

The state pays Gwinnett County $20 per inmate per day, officials said.

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