Valdosta Daily Times

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February 16, 2007

Funds proposed for transition center

VALDOSTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2008 includes a request for $466,140 from the general fund to be used on startup costs for the Valdosta Transition Center. The facility, originally built in 2002 as a diversion center, has never been used.

The proposed 100-bed transition center will provide a “work release” program for Valdosta State Prison that allows inmates to maintain paying jobs in the community while requiring them to conform to the structure of the center. The purpose is to reduce the percentage of inmates who return to prison after being released.

If approved in the final budget, the funds would come from the state general fund and funds made available after the closure of the Savannah Transition Center, according to the proposal.

The budget is normally approved during the final weeks of the legislative session, which normally concludes between late March and early April. If approved, the funds would be made available at the start of the fiscal year, which runs July 1 to June 30, according to Sen. Tim Golden’s office.

Members of the local delegation are working to ensure the funds remain in the budget until its final approval. Once the funds are appropriated, the project can move forward, according to Golden’s office.

While federal funds were used to construct the facility, no funds have been available for operation, according to Yolanda Thompson, Department of Corrections public information officer.

Physically, transition centers and diversion centers are relatively similar. Transition centers are commonly referred to as “halfway out” houses while diversion centers are referred to as “halfway in” houses, according to Brian Owens, assistant Georgia Department of Corrections commissioner.

“Diversion centers are typically underutilized with a 5-10 percent vacancy rate,” Owens said in a September 2006 interview with The Valdosta Daily Times. “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.”

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