STONE COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - With many regional facilities and work centers now off lockdown, state inmates can return to their daily tasks. For Stone County, that means getting much of their labor force back.
Inmates were welcomed back to work Tuesday in Stone County. Florian Hickman, the county’s road manager, is gracious to have the extra help.
“Look, I ain’t ever been so happy in all of my life. The last two days have been miserable,” Hickman told WLOX.
Collecting curbside garbage is one of the responsibilities of inmates and because of the lockdown, all hands were on deck to help dispose of the waste.
“We could not do what we normally do," said Hickman. "Everyone that was doing something else - grading roads, working on roads, cleaning ditches, putting in culverts - was having to pick up garbage. I mean, it really hurt and people don’t really understand and realize how much garbage can be accumulated.”
Beyond trash pickup, inmates serve a vital part in maintaining Stone County.
“They keep the soccer fields up. They keep our softball fields up," said Hickman. "You cannot hire enough people to do things like that.”
Hickman says some of the best workers in the county are inmates and believes programs like these truly help with rehabilitation.
“A lot of these people when they leave the correctional facilities, when they get out, they got jobs waiting on them," he said. "There’s people that worked in the courthouse cleaning that have jobs right now. They met people and the people seen it. These aren’t hardened criminals. These are human beings. They’ve reformed. They’ve changed. One of them has his own business now. I mean you can’t get no better than that.”
The county expects to catch up with trash pickups by Friday and resume normal operations next week.
Mississippi Department of Corrections lifted the lockdown for all but four prisons: Bolivar County, Alcorn County, Chickasaw County and Yazoo County Correctional Facilities.
The prisons were placed on lockdown last week amid ongoing violence and safety concerns across the state.
Five people were killed in the prisons last week, including four as a result of gang violence. Investigators say Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords have been fighting inside the prisons.
Lawmakers have already called for a federal investigation into MDOC.