While he admits those who serve time at the Floyd County Prison are there to pay a debt to society, Warden Jeff Chandler said his staff makes it a goal to help them when they can.
The medium security facility near the Coosa River on Black’s Bluff Road has the capacity to hold more than 400 inmates. About 350 of the beds are reserved for state prisoners.
But Chandler says he doesn’t like to think of it as a rest stop.
“People may think we’re a warehouse of prisoners just serving their sentences,” Chandler said. “We want to be a professional facility, where people can get what they need to go out and be productive members of the community.”
To assist with that, inmates are able to participate in several programs that focus on topics like developing life skills, job readiness preparation, cognitive behavioral training and treating substance abuse.
“All of those things happen behind these doors, but a lot of people don’t realize that we have those programs,” Chandler said.
“It is our hope and expectation that this will provide (prisoners) with the opportunities to become an asset to their families and community.”
A group of staff members and community volunteers work to make these programs possible, according to Chandler. That includes a re-entry specialist, employment coordinator, chief counselor, and three counselors.
Chandler said inmates are considered for the programs on a case-by-case basis through evaluation by the state Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“They have several tools they use to create a needs-based assessment for each inmate,” Chandler said. “They then come up with what programs they need to be eligible for parole and re-enter society.”
The warden said each staff member and corrections officer is a valuable part of the goal to be a multi-mission correctional facility. He compares life inside the walls to “a very complex mini-society.”
“You’ve got folks who have made a bad decision and you’ve got folks who may be bad in general,” Chandler said. “Our job is to take those who realize they’ve made a bad decision and get them back out into the community and be successful.”
In addition to in-facility programs, inmates can also become eligible for work details, where they go out and work under supervision. Chandler said Floyd County Prison inmates perform an average of 700,000 hours of labor in the area each year.
Along with the actual prison, the Black’s Bluff Road complex also houses the Floyd County Work Release Center. Inmates there are allowed to go out and work regular jobs without correctional officer supervision.
In April, the center became one of three Georgia facilities to house a DOC pilot program that focuses more on the impact of inmates re-entering society by creating a more specific path for each one that is selected for the program.