They are not here for the scenery but a group of what you might call forced tourists should be a boon for Pickens tax payers.
Since June 1, the Pickens jail has played host to 20-25 prisoners every day from the city of Sandy Springs, with the city paying Pickens County $40 a day/per inmate.
Sheriff Donnie Craig said the inmates sent here have been locked up for low-level offenses in the city of Sandy Springs and have sentences that are less than one year – meaning they would not be sent to a state prison. These are all non-violent offenders who pose no risk to the public here, said the sheriff.
Craig said this program is expected to generate $300,000 a year in revenue for the jail with very few additional expenses. The sheriff’s office is responsible for feeding the Sandy Springs inmates and has to provide transportation from Sandy Springs to here. The department already had one suitable van to start so only the additional fuel and maintenance are an expense.
Thus far, it appears the inmates are finding their accommodations acceptable. There have been no problems, Craig said.
The Pickens jail can house a maximum of 142 inmates but only ran an average of 75 prisoners daily before this new program started.
One feature touted when the current jail opened a decade ago was the efficient design, allowing a small staff to handle more prisoners.
Craig said with this design they will have the same staffing requirement with 100 prisoners as they had with the current numbers; they will add some staff to handle all transportation. “We can handle 100 just as easy as 80 and with the same staff,” he said.
For the first year at least, the additional revenue will be used to make needed improvements at the jail – items that haven’t been funded in the past few years out of budget constraints. Craig said the revenue will go towards additional security cameras, computer servers and IT needs.
“We have made a lot of cuts,” he said. “We are going to use this to fund additional needs.”
The sheriff also anticipated adding a van and dedicating some staff to not only handling transportation to Sandy Springs but for other prisoner delivery needs. Currently court services uses their officers for trips which includes delivery to state prisons, pickup for anyone in a state facility coming back here for court and for mental health commitments.