LUMBERTON — All 80 employees of the now closed Robeson County Correctional Center have been placed in jobs with other correctional facilities within the state, according to a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s Division of Adult Corrections.
“We were very successful. All 80 employees were offered and accepted jobs at other correctional centers in Robeson and surrounding counties,” said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the state department.
Acree said a number of the employees were able to be placed in positions at the medium security facility in Lumberton near the county jail. Other employees, he said, will work at facilities in Scotland, Hoke, Columbus, Harnett and New Hanover counties.
The antiquated minimum security prison, located on a 102-acre tract on N.C. 711 just west of Lumberton, had the capacity to house up to 304 inmates. It officially closed its doors on Aug. 1 with the inmates being transferred to other facilities.
Robeson is one of five prisons being closed by the state as a cost-saving measure. A prison in Bladen County will close Oct. 1.
The closing of the prisons was in Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $20.6 billion state budget that was made public in March. According to the governor, the prisons to be closed all need expensive repairs and renovations. They also are no longer needed because the inmate population is shrinking, McCrory said.
Robeson County state legislators fought to prevent the closing of the Robeson prison, arguing that it would hurt the county’s already weak economy.
“At the end of the day, this is all about how we have to streamline the operations of government,” said Sen. Michael Walters, who represents Robeson County. “This is a good example of how we have to do more with less.”
Walters said that he was concerned from the beginning about the effect the closing would have on the employees and their families.
“I’m glad to see that they all were able to get jobs,” he said.
Local officials now are trying to find a solution to the loss of cheap inmate labor used by some local governments and the Department of Transportation. The services were obtained for $1 per day for each inmate.
Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris said earlier this year that it would cost the county at least $750,000 to have county employees do the same amount of work for the county’s Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Public Buildings and Solid Waste departments as 26 inmates.
State Rep. Charles Graham said there are negotiations under way between the DOT and state prison officials to get inmate work crews from the Scotland County Correctional Center to clear roads of trash in Robeson County. He said he is not certain what progress is being made on obtaining inmate work crews to perform labor for the county or individual municipalities.