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Bills Introduced For Joint Prison In Yalobusha

By David Howell

    A Senate Bill introduced last Thursday will put Yalobusha County in the hunt for a joint regional/county jail that would be financed by the state. Senator Grey Tollison authored Senate Bill 2584 which would authorize the Mississippi Department of Corrections to contract with Yalobusha County for a regional prision.

    The bill comes after Yalobusha supervisors passed a resolution late last year in favor of building a regional correctionaly facility in the county.

    The board’s resolution does not finalize the decision, which will ultimately be made by state lawmakers as money could be appropiated for as many as five regional facilities in various counties across the state. More than a dozen counties are expected to compete for a regional jail.

    The matter surfaced at the “first Monday” supervisor meeting held in Water Valley when corrections consultant and former state senator Irb Benjamin made his second appearance in the county to describe the complicated path that would lead to the facility becoming a reality. During the meeting Benjamin also offered the services of his Jackson company, Jail Development Management and Consulting, to help the county.

    Benjamin first traveled to Water Valley in December when Department of Commissioner Chris Epps spent an hour with county officials outlining the benefits of a regional jail.

    During that visit, Epps explained that the state would pay almost $30 per day for each state inmate housed, an amount that should cover the entire expense of constructing and operating the facility.

    County officials have pointed to the project as a possibility to replace the current outdated jail at no cost to the taxpayers. The 40-plus year-old jail in the county houses 24 prisoners, according to Sheriff Lance Humphreys, an amount that often not sufficient often causing municipalties to transport their prisoners to other jails.

Consultant’s Advice

    It is not as easy as it sounds,” Benjamin explained talking about the legislative process.

    “There will be seven or eight counties to file bills,” Benjamin said as competition heats up acorss the state.

    The bills will go through the committees, who will “work them off,” Benjamin explained, adding that the counties selected will probably be consolidated into one bill.

    If that bill passes out of the house and Senate, the revised bill would become what Benjamin desribed as the enabling legislation.

    “The fact you get your county in line on the enabling legislation doesn’t mean that you are going to get funded,” Benjamin said.

    Funding is the second important part of the process. In this phase, funding takes place in the appropriations bill that carries the funding for the state department of corrections, according to Benjamin.

    The consultant also told supervisors  the revenue steam received from the state is currently $29.75 per day. With this revenue, the regional jails run on a tight margin and the consultant stressed that proper management is critical to the jails being self-sufficient and actually a money-maker for the county.

    Supervisors will meet again Thursday morning, giving Board Attorney John Crow time to review a contract left by Benjamin and decide whether to retain his services.


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