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County, State Officials Weigh Possibility Of Regional Jail

Yalobusha County’s jail was built over 40 years and is one of the older county jails in Mississippi. County officials are weighing the possibility of partnering with the state for a new facility. – Photo by David Howell

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – Chris Epps will travel to Water Valley today, Dec. 19, to discuss the possibility of locating a regional/county correction facility in Yalobusha County.

    Epps visit comes after Yalobusha supervisors instructed Sheriff William “Lance” Humphreys to find out more about landing one of five regional jails that are scheduled to open in April, 2009, across the state.

    If it becomes a reality, the facility would be a joint county-regional facility operated by the county. The state would pay $29 daily for state inmates housed at the facility, according to Humphreys.

    Humphreys stressed that the prison would house minimum security prisoners only, if the county lands it.

    “This is a great opportunity to get a new county jail without costing the taxpayers.

    He was also quick to note that there are numerous counties competing for the facilities across the state.

    “We are only in the planning stages,” Humphreys said. “We will learn more details from Epps, and then determine if this is a match for our county,” the sheriff told the Herald last week.

    Humphreys did discuss some obvious positives that the project could be bring, if the regional correctional facility lands in the county.

    “There should be 40 to 50 jobs that would be created to run the facility,” Humphreys said.

    “Our current jail is 40 years old,” Humphreys said. “It is a matter of time before we have to do something.” The current Yalobusha Jail can house up to 24 prisoners.

    “We are always full,” Humphreys said. “Often times Water Valley has to house their prisoners in Oxford because we simply don’t have a bed.”

    The sheriff also said the facility could house state inmates with classified work privileges. These inmates, Humphreys explained, could assist county and city workers on public property – saving the county money.

    The prospect was surfaced publicly at the “first Monday” supervisor meeting in Water Valley on Dec. 3.

    Humphreys told supervisors he became interested after seeing an article in the Clarion Ledger.

    “I e-mailed Commissioner Epps to inquire about what exactly it is,” Humphreys said.

    He said Epps followed up with a telephone call, explaining that he would be happy to come to Yalobusha County and talk to supervisors.

    “He said they already have two (regional facilities) in north Mississippi,” Humphreys told supervisors.

    Humphreys said each of the five regional facilities would house 250 inmates each, plus as many county prisoners as the county needs.

    “He basically told me if this board of supervisors wanted it, than he would do it,” Humphreys said on Dec. 3.

    “I know all the employees would be county employees. The county would be reimbursed $29 per day for each inmate housed in the facility.

    Supervisors Tommy Vaughn also said he had also looked into the idea.

    “I got a call the other day from Joe McCraney,” Supervisor Tommy Vaughn said. McCraney works as a governmental specialist with North Central Planning and Development District and assists the county with financial planning.

    “He said he was thought it was a real good deal. If we are interested in it, he stated we should go on and send in resolution.

    “This may be an opportunity that we don’t want to miss. There are other counties out there vying for those other three spots,” Vaughn said.

    “I know he said the county would need 25 to 30 acres to put it on.”

    “How many people would that employee,” Supervisor Frank “Bubba” Tillman.

    “He (Epps) said 50, with (including) 10 part-time,” Humphreys said.

    Surrette suggested that county officials should talk to other counties that currently operate these type of facilities.

    “I think they like it,” Surrette added.

    There are currently 11 county/regional facilities scattered across the state with the closest in Vaiden.

    Harrison county officials are also weighing the prospect of a regional correction facility to alleviate overcrowding and soaring jail costs.    Epps paid a similar visit to Harrison County supervisors last month.

    Hinds County Supervisors have already landed one of the five facilities and are currently negotiating a price to purchase 20 acres for a facility, according to an Associated Press article.

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