Georgia’s Augusta Chronicle found no easy answer to what seemed to be a simple question: What do the city’s taxpayers get in return for the $3.23 million they are paying this year to house state inmates at the Richmond County Correctional Institution? It seems no one in city government knows. State reimbursement for the prisoners does not cover the expense of operating the local prison, which cost taxpayers $16.4 million from 2006 to 2011.
Supporters of the county-owned institution say the city gets free labor from prison work crews that cut grass, pick up trash and help out at the animal services offices and landfill, for example. The prison provides the city with an average daily workforce of 126 inmates, according to jail records. When the eight city departments were asked to list the number of hours they used inmate labor so far this year, only one — license and inspection — came close to providing hard numbers. The remaining departments could only estimate.