N.C. County May Close Last Prison Farm

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Guilford County leaders are considering closing the Guilford County Prison Farm, the last such farm in the state, to reduce costs.

However, Sheriff BJ Barnes argues that because of the cost of closing the farm and what it provides the county, it should remain open, despite a new downtown jail scheduled to open next year.

The farm hosts 40 prisoners during the week and 120 on weekends that do landscaping for Blandwood mansion and county buildings, as well as prepare the cars the Sheriff’s Office sells at auction. Prisoners also learn to work with livestock, harvest grapes, and work in greenhouses.

If the county closes the farm, which costs $2.3 million per year to operate, the county would need to hire workers at a comparable cost to do those jobs, Barnes said.

At a budget committee meeting earlier this month, Maj. Debora Montgomery of the Sheriff’s Office told commissioners the farm returned an estimated $271,000 to the county last year.

Barnes also said having prisoners from the downtown jail do such work is not an option. The potential for escapes, violence and contraband multiply each time prisoners are transported in and out of a facility. With minimal security and a low-risk population at the farm, Barnes said his department does not have a problem moving the Guilford prisoners around the county.