Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

September 30, 2006

Light shed on unused facility

VALDOSTA — After weeks of contacting the Georgia Department of Corrections, some questions surrounding the multimillion dollar Diversion Center, which has remained unused since its construction in 2002, have been answered.

Plans are in the works to utilize the facility as a transition center for Valdosta State Prison. Physically, Transition Centers and Diversion Centers are relatively similar. Transition Centers are commonly referred to as “halfway out” houses with Diversion Centers usually referred to as “halfway in” houses, according to Assistant GDC Commissioner Brian Owens.

“Over 57,000 beds in the GDC system are continually striving to maximize occupancy rates,” Owens said. “Diversion Centers are typically underutilized with a 5-10 percent vacancy rate. Transition centers typically have a waiting list. Currently, there are approximately 800 inmates backlogged in state prisons waiting for beds among the nine transition centers we (GDC) currently operate.”

During the 2005 fiscal year, 343 inmates who were convicted in the Southern Judicial Circuit were released from prison. Statistics show that inmates who are released from prison through a transition center are 11 percent less likely to recidivate than those released back into society directly from prison, according to Owens. Currently, the nearest transition center is located in Albany.

“In an effort to slow the ‘revolving door’ of recidivism, Gov. Sonny Perdue established a policy team in July 2003 to make recommendations to him and other key agency heads on how best to reduce recidivism,” Owens added. “In October 2005, the policy team made their recommendations and are currently implementing the recommendations, to include offering better, more comprehensive transition opportunities for offenders as they return home.”

Demond Wilson, chief executive officer of Restoration House of America, sent a letter to Rep. Ron Borders requesting his assistance in acquiring the Diversion Center facility to be used as a rehabilitation and education center for former inmates. In response to Wilson’s inquiry, Owens stated that the center was built using federal funds under specific guidelines for use. The facility must be used to house active offenders under sentence, whether probationers or inmates, according to the guidelines.

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