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Leaders Statewide Oppose Ending Joint State County Work Program
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Carthage Mayor Jimmy Wallace (center) with state and county leaders
Desare Frazier

Mayor Jimmy Wallace of Carthage, says his city relies on the work provided by 12 inmates in the Mississippi Department of Correction's Joint State County Work Program.

"They pick-up trash, they cut grass, they work in parks. We even have a guy that helps read the water meters and we trained him to do that." said Wallace.

Wallace says, if they had to pay employees minimum wage and benefits to do the same work, it would cost $235,000 annually.

"This would cost raising the taxes in Carthage, Mississippi 8.3 mills, which is a lot." said Wallace.

Wallace, legislators, sheriffs, county and municipal leaders packed the Mississippi Association of Supervisors office in Jackson, to protest plans to end the work program, August 1, 2015. Commissioner Marshall Fisher says it will save $3.2 million. Thirty counties participate in the program and receive $20 per day for each inmate. Leaders estimate it will mean a total loss of about $23 million. Derrick Surrette with the Mississippi Supervisor's Association, says they had to build new facilities in order to participate in the program.

"Many have not been paid off. Some are brand new. The taxpayers are going to be left holding the bag for that because there will not be the $20 per day to pay for that." said Surrette.

In a statement, Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher said "we have to get out of the mindset that that we must continue to do business the old way." Fisher says they are working on alternatives, including allowing counties to keep inmates without compensation from the state and request mobile work crews at the state's expense.