First Posted: 3/6/2009
DOBSON Mount Airy City Commissioner Dean Brown, who is known throughout the area for his push to see a prison built in Surry County, addressed the Surry County commissioners Thursday night at a packed house of citizens, most who mainly came to protest Fibrowatts move into the county.
Brown gave a 20-minute presentation which showed pictures from a prison he worked at in Florida in the 1970s. Brown told commissioners that bringing a prison to Surry County would bring multifaceted jobs to the county. He explained it would bring more money into the hospital and Surry Community College. He said even the construction of the facility would bring in a great deal of work locally. He also frequently highlighted that it would be a clean industry.
This could bring a lot of additional work for people. This could bring 1,200 to 1,500 jobs. Thats about one-sixth of all the jobs that weve lost. I know that wont make a big difference, but it will make a difference, Brown said.
Browns PowerPoint presentation showed inmates sitting in church and in Bible study classes. He said, for the most part, inmates are very religious.
Inmates love music, just like we do. God made them, just like He made us. Inmates are kept busy with recreation. They are taught to grow plants or learn a vocation, Brown said.
Brown explained the pictures from his presentation.
Im sorry for the oldness, but it still tells the story, Brown said, explaining he was a librarian at the prison where he worked.
Brown explained to commissioners that the Division of Prisons is one of the largest agencies in North Carolina. He said the budget in that department in 2007 was $1,083,404,206. He said currently the Division of Prisons has 18,384 employees. And, he said, that number is expected to rise 20 percent as the population in North Carolina increases.
Ric Marshall, who ran unsuccessfully to represent a portion of Surry County as well as Yadkin County at the state level in November, told the commissioners they need to make their voices heard in the state capital if they want Surry County to be chosen for the next prison.
We do need your help in talking to everybody we possibly can in Raleigh. We need you to contact Raleigh and support it. They stress that they want to know where are the county commissioners on this, Marshall said.
District 92 Rep. Sarah Stevens, who represents the rest of Surry County as well as Wilkes County, told the commissioners that while the budget in Raleigh is undergoing reductions, they would not be made in the area of prisons or the Department of Corrections.
We are going to have to make some cuts, but this is not it. We are going to have to build a prison. I do think it is something that we can do. The question is, can Surry County land it? Stevens said.
Gloria Levra, a local resident, took the podium to address the commissioners. She said she had worked with prisoners in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The best way to find religion is to go to jail. They are just like you and I, they just got caught, Levra said.
She said, in her experience, using prisoners to help non-profit organizations was a wonderful experience. She told commissioners that she thought the non-profit organizations in the county could benefit from having the facility located in the county.
Surry County resident Jane Motsinger took the podium during the public hearing as well.
Commissioner Brown I respect all of your work this is just a personal statement. I find it sad that things have gotten to a point that we have to recruit a prison and a chicken litter plant (referring to Fibrowatt). I think we need to address the issue of how many people are in jail now first before we start talking about building more prisons, Motsinger said.
Chairman Craig Hunter looked at Motsinger, I learned a long time ago that you cannot legislate morality.
It makes me sad, Motsinger said as she slipped away from the podium.
Thank you for your comment, Hunter responded.
The commissioners held off on discussion of the presentation Thursday night.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.