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Employee safety is at center of Marion County jail issue

Staff writer

Marion County corrections officers and 911 employees have to walk along a dark corridor within arm’s reach of jail cells, placing them at unnecessary risk, especially the 911 employees who are not trained to deal with inmates.

Sheriff Rob Craft and Law Enforcement and Public Safety Center Committee chairman Danny Flynn spoke Friday at Marion Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Margo Yates has toured the facility. She said county residents need to know about conditions at the jail.

Transporting inmates to other counties would cost about $300,000 per year with the current inmate population. Flynn said he hadn’t realized it would be that expensive.

The committee’s planning for a new jail was stalled when assistant attorney general Michael Smith sent a written opinion rejecting the committee’s financing plan. The plan would have levied $120 per year on every residence in the county for 10 years.

Marion County Commission requested a second opinion after some changes to the plan. If the issue is quickly resolved, the committee could have a recommendation for the commission by May, Flynn said

Marion City Council member Bill Holdeman asked if the county charges inmates. Inmates are charged about $11 per day, but collecting is difficult, Craft said.

Jackie Crofoot asked if the county uses inmate labor. Low-risk inmates can participate in a work-release program with Marion County Transfer Station, but not all inmates qualify. Inmates with 25-year sentences would be too much of a flight risk, Craft said.

Last modified Aug. 26, 2009

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