Chelsea opposes Childersburg Work Release Center closing

CHELSEA – The city of Chelsea unanimously voted to pass a resolution in opposition to the closing of the Childersburg Work Release Center at a regularly scheduled city council meeting on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 5.

According to a press release from the Alabama Department of Corrections, ADOC recently began planning a “three-pronged approach” to a shortage of correctional officers in prisons throughout the state, which will be implemented in March 2018.

As part of ADOC’s effort to consolidate prisons, the press release stated the Childersburg Work Release Center will be repurposed as a “Life Tech Transition Center,” and inmates will be transferred to the St. Clair Correctional Facility and other facilities.

Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said the closing of the Childersburg Work Release Center will have adverse effects on local cities, counties, colleges and working inmates.

“On the surface, that may look like a great idea,” Picklesimer said at the pre-council meeting. “But Chelsea, along with many municipalities, counties and colleges use labor from this center on a daily basis.”

On Dec. 4, Picklesimer wrote a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey, state Sen. Slade Blackwell and state Representative Corley Ellis asking ADOC to discontinue plans to close the facility. In the letter, Picklesimer said local mayors, county commissioners from four counties and representatives from two colleges met to discuss the negative impacts of closing the facility.

“Loss of this valuable resource would mean that cities and counties in our region would either have to replace that labor, at a cost of over $3 million dollars annually, or simply cease maintaining our infrastructure and facilities,” Picklesimer wrote in the letter. “Either way, it’s our residents who suffer, and when it comes to maintenances of public roadsides, they will notice.”

Each day, Picklesimer said two inmates from the Childersburg Work Release Center do maintenance and beautification work on several of the city’s facilities and roadways. In their absence, Picklesimer said the city will have to accommodate by hiring a full-time employee. The letter stated that the change will cost Chelsea $100,000. Several Chelsea businesses also use inmate labor, according to Picklesimer.

“This planned change hits us all close to home,” Picklesimer wrote.

Additionally, Picklesimer said the closing of the work release center will also negatively affect each inmate’s transition back into society.

“This center is more than just free labor for the city, it gives these prisoners a chance to transition into a normal life,” Picklesimer continued.

As part of the resolution, Picklesimer expressed support for everyone who will be negatively affected by the closing of the Childersburg Work Release center.

“We stand with our sister cities, our sister counties and, our universities and our private businesses that are in opposition to this,” Picklesimer said.