This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Baconton City Hall Before
Hang around GMA for a while, says Baconton Mayor Annette Morman, and you’re going to get a lot of good ideas. The mayor of the small, southwest Georgia town found one idea that suited her city perfectly: using inmate labor from the state’s Department of Corrections to do painting and repairs on the historic Victorian home Baconton uses as city hall.
“We couldn’t afford to do the repairs ourselves,” said Morman. “But for the cost of the paint and equipment, we were able to get it done.”
The state sent eight inmates from prisons across the state to work on the painting project. The mayor was so impressed by their work, she found other projects around the city hall for them to do.
The start of the new, handmade city clerk’s desk.
“One inmate was a carpenter,” she said. “The desk where our city clerk sat and took money was too exposed. So, I asked them to make us a desk that wasn’t so open. He designed and built a beautiful new desk from the ground up that is perfect.”
They also repaired the widows’ walk on top of the building and painted the interior. The mayor got to know the men as they worked. Famous for her cooking, Morman would sometimes provide lunch for the crew, ensuring they ate better than the standard lunch of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
“They would ask, ‘Ms. Mayor, when are you going to make peach cobbler for us again?’” she said. “I told them if they kept doing the great work they were doing, I’d send some home with them.”
The inmates, she said, were all in jail for drug-related offenses. “They made bad choices, and they are paying for them. Everybody makes mistakes, no one on this earth is perfect. You have to pay for your mistakes, and that’s what they’re doing.”
According to the Department of Corrections, 95 percent of offenders will return to society. Those individuals will need to be prepared to find employment and be productive citizens. To help them prepare, the department provides training and on-the-job experience.
Morman says the training is working. “They are so respectful, so skilled and take great care to clean up after themselves on the job site. There was also a lot of respect between them and the supervisor. They called him ‘mister’ and he did that to them, too. One of them thanked me for treating them so nice. He said not everyone sees them as people, and he appreciated that we treated them the way we did.”
The work done by the inmates and their demeanor so impressed the city leaders that Morman purchased and presented the Department of Corrections with a plaque of appreciation for the work the inmates did at city hall.
“They were great and we wanted to say thanks for what they had done,” said Morman.