STONE COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - The lockdown of state, private and regional facilities by the Mississippi Department of Corrections has left many communities scrambling to cover the workload normally handled by state inmates.
This includes the road department in Stone County.
The Stone County Regional Correctional Facility houses 280 state inmates. With inmate workers now in lockdown, crews with the road department are unable to address even routine road work as they now have to take up garbage collection until the lockdown ends.
“Right now, it is just throwing a real hardship on other work that needs to be done,” said Stone County Road Manager Florian Hickman. “The roads are in bad shape. We have ponding on roads. Well, I can’t get nothing out there to do anything about it because we are having to pick up the garbage. You can’t let the garbage go one day or you can’t make it up.”
Hickman said if his crews miss a day, it would take the department a week to make it up. The county’s efforts to handle the tasks inmates normally take care of have opened incoming supervisor Nathan Bond’s eyes.
“Yes it has opened our eyes to the fact that we may need to in the future contract this out, or at least look into it," Bond said. "Depending on what the cost may be, we will determine that in the future, in the next year.”
Inmates do much more than just pick up garbage. Some handle janitorial work, and others take care of lawn maintenance.
“We use them in the courthouse. We use them for the mechanic and our vehicle maintenance, and it has very much opened my eyes to how much of a major role they play in the community and how important they are to us,” Bond said.
Bryan Gibson’s department has also been affected. Gibson is the Stone County Recreation Director, and the lockdown has shorthanded his team as well.
“If we don’t have him, we are short-staffed. I mean we have a lot of grass to cut,” Gibson said.
Due to the lockdown, Stone County Road Department is asking that community members bag their trash and get it to the curb by 7 a.m. Monday. If it’s not bagged, crews will not collect it.