Since 1,423 Alabama inmates landed in Mississippi’s privately owned Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in June, the county’s economy gained 250 jobs, annual payroll $6 million, in an area with a 26.8 percent poverty rate and unemployment at 12.5 percent, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
Alabama’s decision to pay $27.50 a day per inmate to reduce crowding in its underfunded corrections system is a boon to local workers. Money is finding its way into the business community with purchases made by the prison and employees. “Over 80 percent of the employees live in Tallahatchie County and spend money here,” said county administrator Marvin Doss. Donna Surholt, owner of Moore Paper and Janitorial Supply Inc. in Clarksdale, has seen the prison dollars trickle through the Delta.
The boost should continue because the inmates won’t leave soon. Alabama taxpayers defeated a tax-increase referendum last week that would have helped its education and corrections systems.
Warden Jim Cook, who has seen Tallahatchie go from 30 county inmates to 1,463 with 276 employees, knows why Alabama sent inmates. Cook was an Alabama warden before going to work in 1995 for Correctional Corporation of America, which owns the Tallahatchie facility. “You can’t ask a corrections department with a growing population to operate on the same funds,” Cook said. “This is a high-stress job at best, but you can’t work people like they are without employee burnout. Your facilities will also deteriorate.”
Cook says Alabama inmates like being in Mississippi. “It is less crowded, facilities are better and they like the food,” Cook said.