Inmate labor saves Walker County taxpayers thousands - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Inmate labor saves Walker County taxpayers thousands

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WALKER COUNTY, GA. (WRCB)  --  Skilled, non-violent inmates save Walker County hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the sheriff's office.

"I'm full of restless energy anyway. I'm never one to sit around," says inmate, Michael Tapp.

Tapp spends a couple hours every week outside the confines of his jail cell, where he has spent 15 months behind bars.

"I was put on probation for possession of meth in 2009, violated my probation and was re-arrested," Tapp explains. 

However, Tapp is also a skilled builder. On Monday he installed a gun safe at the courthouse, which he designed and built himself.

"Took about a day, a day and a half to complete it," says Tapp.

Tapp is a part of the Inmate Labor Program in Walker County.

"When he's in jail we utilize him here, and he saved us a lot of money," says Sheriff Steve Wilson.

Wilson says inmates who volunteer to work save the county between $250,000 and $500,000 a year.

"If you paid them an average wage of $15 to $18 per hour, what most of the work would run, you're probably looking at more than that," Wilson says.

The State is also taking advantage of inmate labor. The new Cherokee Regional Library is using state prisoners to build the $4 million project.

"They're doing really good work. I go over there often and all of the engineers that come and review their work and inspect it are very pleased with it," says Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Library System.

Library officials turned to the Georgia Department of Corrections for help when they learned half a million dollars was being cut from the county's budget to build.

In the end, officials believe inmate labor will save the library close to $300,000.

It's a win-win situation for state and local governments and for inmates like Tapp who will likely need a job once he's done serving time.

"It's nice to get out of your cell and get out to get some fresh air; but, there's other benefits also," Tapp says.

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