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Sheriff opens work farm'

By Staff
WORKING – Relious Densmore, an inmate worker, shovels around the perimeter of the the fence at the Lauderdale County Work Farm while being watched by Henry Thompson, supervisor. Some trustys in the county penal system have been relocated to the former Hilltop Home on Highway 39. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
Oct. 3, 2002
In the shadow of a new water tower on Highway 39 South, just at the city limit, is a gray, one-story concrete block house with aqua shutters. The house sits on 3 acres and is surrounded by a 12-foot fence with razor wire at the top.
Its inhabitants are inmates transferred from the Lauderdale County jail to the Lauderdale County Work Farm.
A month ago, 54 men moved from the jail to the house with aqua shutters, the old Hilltop Home for Boys.
All are serving sentences for non-violent crimes. They work eight-hour shifts, five days a week, in a variety of jobs around Meridian where their green-and-white striped pants make them easy to recognize.
What it's like
The house has four wings, smells of floor cleaner and is painted aqua in the common areas the same aqua as the shutters. The bedrooms are peach.
The inmates sleep four to a room on 4-inch thick sleeping pads stacked on bunk beds. Photos of family, wives, girlfriends and children decorate the walls and books are piled neatly on the floor.
Each wing has five bedrooms; at full capacity, 80 inmates can live in the house.
The Lauderdale County Work Farm, as the home is now called, is one of five inmate work programs in Mississippi. Inmates earn worker status through good behavior; for every 30 days worked, an inmate subtracts 10 days from his sentence.
Sheriff Billy Sollie says Lauderdale County profits.
He said the home's 2002 budget is set at $192,000 and, even at 54 inmates, the home is self-supporting and will bring in $394,200 a year.
How it's going
Ables said two detention officers have served as guards 24 hours a day since Sept. 1, the inmate move-in date, and not one fight has erupted.
The sound of baseball, the Atlanta Braves versus the San Francisco Giants, echoed from a television in one of the bedrooms cable channels are provided free of charge by Comcast Cable Company.
Inmate workers said they like their new home and its privileges.
Jones stood in the back yard listening to his cassette walkman another privilege, he said.
Jones said he's serving a six-year sentence for selling marijuana. His wife and 8-month-old daughter visit on the weekends.