Prison Officials Speak Out About Work Detail Security

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Convicted felons walk your streets everyday, picking up your garbage, fixing your sewer systems, and cleaning up after natural disasters.

Many may feel safe with armed corrections officers nearby, watching their every move.

In some cases, though, those supervising prisoners are not armed and have very little training.

So what happens if a problem arises, like the prisoner escape Friday from a Parks & Recreation work detail?

Even Sgt. Charles Mason, who trains these corrections officers, say they may not be prepared.

"No more than anybody else on the street. They are not certified officers, and cannot actually touch inmates," said Sgt. Mason.

These are what prison officials call non-agency employees, commonly the men who drive the garbage trucks with prisoners on the back.

They are only required go through 20 hours of training each year, are not allowed to carry weapons, and can only look after two minimum security prisoners at a time.

"20 hours, 50 hours, even 100 hours cannot be enough training. I am as proactive as I financially and physically can be to have them be prepared," said Muscogee County Prison Warden W.W. Adamson.

Most of the people in charge of prisoners are corrections officers certified through the Georgia Peace Officers Council in a five week course, where they go through defense tactics, drug training, and weapons testing.

These officers are armed and can watch from six to eight prisoners at a time.

Even with their increased training, the prison still has safety details going out each week, checking to make sure that all officers are following proper guidelines.

"We do a good job here, and we are constantly looking for ways to do it better," said Warden Adamson.

Prison officials stress that the public can always get involved.

If you see a problem on a work detail near your home, you should record the truck number, then call the prison or the 311 Citizen's Service Center.

If they receive the complaint immediately, the prison will even send a supervisor out to the site that day to investigate the work detail.