CCA has quiet start at Adams County Correctional Center

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — Based on movie and television portrayals of prisons, quiet is not the first word that comes to mind when describing the atmosphere.

But quiet is exactly how Warden Vance Laughlin described the first seven months of housing inmates at Adams County Correctional Facility. The Adams County Correctional Facility is a Corrections Corporation of America facility.

“It has been a very smooth activation in terms of getting the staff acclimated to the environment and accepting inmates,” Laughlin said. “We’ve had few problems with the entire process.”

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After sitting empty for months before a federal contract was secured, Adams County Correctional Facility began accepting inmates in August.

The arrival of the first inmates meant an end to the training drills and the beginning of real prison work, Laughlin said.

“There is a lot of training that goes into being an employee with CCA, so we were here for a few months before we had inmates,” Laughlin said.” In that time, a lot of excitement built up amongst the employees.

“By the time the first inmate arrived, we were ready to get to work for real.”

The facility houses approximately 2,015 inmates and currently employs nearly 330 employees.

Laughlin said the prison could accept approximately 525 more inmates before reaching full capacity. There are still 77 staff positions available.

Laughlin said of the employees hired, 95 percent were local citizens before being hired at the facility.

“The other 5 percent that had to be brought in from elsewhere, they are local now,” he said.

Of the inmates currently in the facility, 68 percent are Mexican, followed in order of population, by Columbians, Cubans, Dominicans, Canadians, El Salvadorians and 271 other nationalities.

“Our Mexican population is 1,300 and we have 23 inmates from El Salvador, and they are sixth on the list,” Laughlin said. “That gives you a good idea of what our population looks like.”

Approximately 62 percent of the population is incarcerated on drug charges and 29 percent are imprisoned because of immigration violations.

Having a large Hispanic population has caused a problem, Laughlin said, since there is not a large Spanish-speaking population in the Adams County area. He said while 81 percent of the inmate population is Hispanic, he only has six employees in the facility that speak Spanish.

Laughlin described the seven-unit prison as a self-contained operation.

“We provide our own laundry service, we cook three meals a day, we basically operate like a town,” he said. “Our day starts at 6 a.m., and from there we have count the entire population seven different times.

“The majority of our inmates are involved in some type of work or in an educational or vocational program of some sort in the prison.”

Laughlin said the prison does inmate intake one to three times a week with approximately 70 to 100 new inmates coming to the facility each week.

Laughlin said he is particularly proud of the facility’s involvement in the community. He said they are sponsors to many local events and have already started a successful Relay for Life team.

In addition, Laughlin said the facility does a large amount of business with local businesses including doing much of its purchasing with local vendors and even hiring a local company to build the new warehouse on the facility’s property.

“We spend on average $30,000 a month at local businesses on everything from cleaning supplies to parts for equipment and repairs,” Laughlin said. “That number doesn’t include the money we are spending on the new warehouse which is more than ($30,000).”

While Laughlin said he is pleased with the way things have gone so far, he knows the Adams County facility must continue to improve to meet CCA’s goal of being the top private provider of correctional facilities in the nation.

“CCA has matured as a company and as a facility we are doing that as well,” he said. “We’ve got a ways to go to say we are there, but we keep getting better.”