The renovation to the library in LaFayette began more than a year ago.
Ordinarily the trusties receive a minimal lunch of a bologna sandwich, but once a week they receive a special incentive of a more lavish lunch from volunteers.
Meals vary each week from donated pizzas to home-cooked meals, many of which have been provided by the local “Friends of the Library” group, with casseroles being common.
“It’s really about showing appreciation,” said Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Library System.
A few local community groups have already provided donated meals, including two churches in LaFayette.
She believes the inmates are seeing the positive impact that their efforts can have for a community, while some have obvious pride in the job they are doing. Others may be feeling appreciation for the first time in their lives.
Utilizing inmate labor is projected to save nearly $700,000 during the course of the project, according to Eubanks.
However, it also creates a challenge as the situations at the prison may periodically and unexpectedly cancel the work crew’s ability to leave during a variety of situations (including cold weather), which could ultimately affect the project completion date.
“There are a lot of rules and regulations that we just don’t have any control over,” Eubanks said.
When the project began, more than a year ago, about 12-15 inmates volunteered to work on the library project. As the building phase has become fully involved, a total of 24 inmates (along with two guards) are now at the LaFayette job site, four days a week.
One of the guards is a state Department of Corrections construction supervisor who oversees the work that the men are completing each day.
“We do realize that (trusties) could be back at the prison doing nothing all day. Instead they choose to get out and to do hard physical labor on our projects,” Eubanks said. “We just want to show our appreciation.”
Those volunteers can’t be from Walker County or any neighboring county for the project, per Georgia Department of Corrections rules, which requires the trusties to be transferred to nearby Hays State Prison. Those inmates are also selected for the programs based on previous skilled labor experience or a willingness to learn general construction skills, according to Eubanks.
“There are a lot of quality talent doing masonry work for us,” Eubanks said. “They are getting ready to put up drywall. We have had the engineers also inspecting the work along the way.” Even the engineers have been impressed with the skill that the inmates have shown, she said.
The project is nearly “dried in” as an exterior shell once the roof is complete in a few weeks, to be followed by the installation of a HVAC system, both of which are items that the inmates aren’t allowed to work on, along with anything that has a warranty.
One expense in using the inmate labor is the frequency of tool rental for specialized equipment.
Inmates who have been convicted of non-violent crimes are eligible to work on the community service projects.
Eubanks and her family provided a homemade Christmas meal to the trusties, a week before the actual holiday.
“We made sure they had a turkey and ham with all the fixin’s,” Eubanks said.
Labor Day weekend is the approximated opening date for the new facility.
Donated meals should feed 26 men and need to arrive between 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Thursdays. Suggested dishes include chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, barbecue, spaghetti and sloppy joes.
All utensils are already on site, and the trusties even clean the dishes to be returned to the donor.
Anyone interested in donating food or money to the lunch incentive program can contact library manager Tim York at 706-638-2992 for more details.