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Odom faces downsizing, cutbacks

JACKSON — Approximately 50 active positions at Odom Correctional Institute (OCI) will be affected as the facility is converted from a medium security facility to minimum.

The state budget that was just signed by Gov. Bev Perdue lists seven Department of Correction facilities that will be closed and also lists OCI as a facility that will be downgraded and have jobs affected by that action.

According to DOC Public Affairs Director Keith Acree, OCI will be losing 104 positions and will gain 80 minimum security inmates in a conversion that is already taking place.

Currently, OCI has 284 positions, 53 of which are vacant. With the elimination of those 53 vacant positions, Acree said in all approximately 50 positions will be affected by converting the facility to minimum security.

However, Acree assured that DOC officials will be working with those employees in order to relocate them to other area facilities.

“What we’re trying to do is not take away people’s jobs, but absorb all the eliminated positions,” said Acree. “We’re going to make an effort to place employees at other DOC facilities within the region.”

He added over the next couple of weeks officials will meet with the affected employees in order to find out what their preferences are in reassignment to other facilities.

Acree said most of the positions affected are correctional officers, including some Lieutenants, Sergeants and Captains, as well as some administrative positions.

Those affected by the conversion are scheduled to be reassigned by February 1, 2010.

In the meantime, Acree said the process of “double celling” is occurring at OCI.

The current configuration of the facility allows inmates to be housed in the dormitory (two people to one cell) and the cellblock (one individual to a cell). Acree said with the conversion, extra bunks will be added allowing for “double celling” in 80 of the single inmate cells. This will allow for the addition of 80 more inmates to be housed in those cells.

Therefore OCI’s population and capacity will increase. The facility’s current population is 457 inmates with a capacity of 458. When the conversion is complete, OCI will be able to house 538 inmates.

Acree said the transportation of medium security inmates from OCI to other facilities has already begun. The process of converting the prison is slated to be finished by October 1.