“Basically, we were just trying to get an idea about their work-release program and the area created for the program. We wanted to see if it would fit our needs for a workhouse facility,” according to Louie Alford, chairman of the Bradley County Commission.
A workhouse committee was formed to analyze requirements for a workhouse and the financial feasibility of the program. Ideally, said Commissioner Ed Elkins, the program would break even without any extra costs to Bradley County taxpayers.
Elkins said he would not ask taxpayers to build a workhouse which would be more of a hindrance than a benefit. He said it would even be preferable if the program generated extra funds.
“I think there is a need for [a workhouse program],” Elkins said. “We have some people over there right now who are in the work-release program at the Bradley County jail. If we had an actual workhouse, then we could put those people in the workhouse to make more space available in the jail.”
The short definition of a workhouse is a prison where inmates do manual labor to work off their sentences. Prisoners would be expected to stay at the jail overnight. Those with a job would be allowed to leave the prison for a limited time. This would ensure inmates would still have their jobs after completion of their sentence.
One theory is a workhouse would minimize repeat offenders by providing them a way to earn a living while in custody.
“They have a lot of people who have violated probation,” Elkins explained. “[Violators] could be placed in a workhouse at minimum cost, especially ones who already have a job. Then they can remain employed while paying their fines.”
He added, “I am hoping it is financially feasible to get one started. It would benefit the county, the prisoners involved and the prisoners’ families.”
Alford said the idea was presented last year, but led to no action. Discussion has now resumed due to the jail’s maxed-out population.
“I fully understand the benefits of the program, but I have not had anyone present to me how they break even,” Alford said. “That is the minimum criteria for this. We must at least break even.”
He said additional tours to other workhouse facilities would help committee members form better ideas for the potential program.