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Officials Weigh Jail Concerns

By David Howell

COFFEEVILLE – A federal court order, following a late-September jail inspection by attorney Ron Welch, opened the topic of housing state inmates at the Yalobusha County Jail for the second consecutive “first Monday” board meeting in Coffeeville.

    Welch, who represents Mississippi prisoners in a variety of class action federal court cases concerning conditions of confinement, inspected the 40-plus-year-old Yalobusha Jail on Sept. 25. The inspection was routine, according the Sheriff Lance Humphreys. Welch was re-inspecting all of the jails in the state that house state inmates.  

    “Any jail in Mississippi that houses state inmates had to pay $3,000 and was reinspected,” Humphreys told the Herald after the “first Monday” meeting held in Coffeeville Nov. 3.

    Monday’s discussion brought out opposing ideas regarding how to address future of the antiquated 24-bed facility after Board Attorney John Crow advised supervisors to no longer house state inmates.

    “I suggest you pack them up and send them back to Sunflower County,” Crow told supervisors. His comments followed a review of eight-page court order in which the current jail is described as “old, out-dated, deteriorating and poorly designed.”

    The court order also included extensive requirements including providing an on-site health care system at the jail for inmates, a monthly census report, a limit of two sheriff’s trustee state inmates (see related story), a comprehensive assessment and review of the county jail, and even cable television for the working inmates.

    Additionally, the court order mandates that the county can only continue housing state inmates until next September, unless county officials have shown “good faith” toward building a new jail.

    The order does not affect county inmates. County inmates are those who have not been convicted but are awaiting trial, or serving time for a misdemeanor.

Difference of Opinions

    Two sides presented Monday came from District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn and District Three Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette, in a heated exchange.

    “This is not a popular subject, I don’t care whether they are comfortable or not, that is not the problem, the problem is overcrowding,” Vaughn said, telling his fellow board members that he would be in favor of expanding the current jail or building a new jail using one to two million of a $2.5 million surplus in the general fund.

    “We have got to keep our priorities in order, we have to take care of the young folks and old folks, first,” Surrette countered, pointing to the hospital, schools and health department.

    Citing an example, Surrette said that the Water Valley High School is one year older than the 1964-model jail.

    Surrette said he thought the county’s best option would be to continue to apply for approval from state lawmakers to build a regional jail in the county.

    “We have got the health department working out of a barn,” Surrette continued, a comment that brought a quick response from Vaughn.

    “That is taken care of,” Vaughn said, referring to previous discussion concerning plans to purchase the building currently occupied by Dr. Paul Odom after the hospital builds a new medical facility that would combine the facilities of Dr. Odom and Dr. Joe Walker.

    “The health department has been our first priority,” Vaughn continued, adding that the board had been saving money for a new health department and jail.

    “I have not been saving money for the jail,” Surrette answered.

    “I didn’t say you, I said we,” Vaughn answered.

    “I have been saving money for the health department,” Surrette said.

    Vaughn continued, adding that the supervisors’ focus should involve long-range plans, not “putting out fires.”

    “I am not voting for no general obligation bonds,” Vaughn said, adding this was a campaign pledge. Vaughn pointed to the ever-increasing cost of construction which would require the county to borrow money in the future to build a jail if the decision was put off.

    Vaughn also told Surrette that he was unsure that a regional jail would break even after the cost of construction has increased dramatically each year while the per diem paid by Mississippi Department of Corrections to house the inmates has remained the same.

Sheriff’s Opinion

Humphreys told supervisors he would do “whatever they wanted,” concerning the decision whether to continue to house state inmates.

    “It is affecting more than this Board of Supervisors,” the sheriff added. “The City of Coffeeville tranports (prisoners) to Grenada because we are full,” Humphreys explained, adding that Water Valley Police Chief Mike King also calls several times a week, checking for space availability for city prisoners needing a overnight stay.

    “I have got 19 waiting on trial, I can’t let them out,” Humphreys said about the current jail inmate count. Of the 19, which are all pre-trial inmates under indictment, most cannot afford to post bond or cannot obtain a bond because they were already out on a bond when the current crime was committed.

    This leaving only five slots for city inmates, trustees classified to work or future lawbreakers.

    Humphreys also said the county would be looking at a minimum of five years to get a regional jail up and going, if a bill is passed in Jackson.

Monday’s Outcome

    Beat Five Supervisor Frank “Bubba” Tillman leaned toward focusing on negotiating the requirements in the court order, with Crow taking the lead to see if there is any wiggle-room in the requirements.

    The issue will likely surface in the recessed meeting scheduled Nov. 20.

Humphreys Weighs Benefits Of Housing State Prisoners

By David Howell

    A decision by county officials on whether to expand or construct a new jail will determine the fate of housing state inmates in Yalobusha County.

    State inmates housed in the Yalobusha County Jail have been convicted and are awaiting sentencing or who have been convicted of one crime and are back in the county for a separate indictment or trial.

    If the county does not comply with the federal court order (see related story), it will not affect county inmates and the jail will continue to operate.

    County inmates are prisoners incarcerated for misdemeanor charges or awaiting trial in justice or circuit court.

    Humphreys estimates that on average, the county houses seven to eight state inmates during each of the three Circuit Court trial sessions annually.

    “They are going to be in our custody an average of two months during the court session,” the sheriff said, citing an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 price tag for these inmates cannot be housed in the county.

    “This figure is based on the the $35 per day that Grenada or Panola counties will charge us to house these inmates,” Humphreys continued. Additional expenses would include travel time for the deputies to transport the inmates back and forth.

    Another loss, according to the sheriff, is a $20 per diem for each state inmate housed in the county, or an estimated $25,200 the county already receives each year for housing these inmates.

Trustee Work

    Another type of state inmate is a sheriff’s trustee state inmate. This is an inmate that has been requested by the sheriff and work privileges under supervision. On average, Humphreys said he houses two sheriff’s trustee state inmates. During the last year, their labor has accounted for grounds upkeep on most of the county-owned buildings, and cleaning the multi-purpose building as well as other odd jobs on government-owned property.

    These inmates also provide labor at the jail including janitorial services and passing out meals.

    “We will lose this labor if we cannot house state inmates,” Humphreys reiterated.

MDOC Joint County Work Program

    Humphreys pointed to a third benefit if the county had more cells for prisioners.

    “If we have the space, we could enter the MDOC Joint County Work Program,” the sheriff said. This would allow the county to house prisoners, classified by the state, who could work outside the jail without direct supervisor.

    “Most counties have this program,” Humphreys explained. “They have inmates picking up trash, working with road crews, working at government buildings – all saving the taxpayers money,” Humphreys said.

No Space

    With the jail always operating at full capacity, Humphreys said there is little space for Coffeeville and Water Valley prisoners.   

    “Most of the time it is limited, I hate it,” Humphreys said.

    This means when either of the municipal police department make an arrest, the prisoner will have to be transported to another county.



The cause comes presently before the Court on the joint ore terms motion of defendants and plaintiffs for an order approving the YALOBUSHA COUNTY JAIL for the housing of up to a maximum of 2 Sheriff’s Trusties state inmates.
The parties and the governing authorities of the Yalobusha County Jail agree and stipulate, and the Court specifically finds, that the motion is well taken and should be granted, and that the relief granted is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct violations of the Federal rights herein remedied.
Subject to the agreed stipulation above, and to the conditions ordered below, the required prior consent of plaintiffs’ counsel has therefore been given for the present agreed order. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:

1.    This ORDER supersedes all prior orders respecting the
Yalobusha County jail.
2.    The YALOBUSHA COUNTY JAIL should be and the same is hereby
approved by the Court for the housing of up to a maximum of 2
Sheriff’s Trustee state inmates.
 3. The YALOBUSHA COUNTY SHERIFF shall, and in writing on his
official letterhead, notify Ms. Leanette Jordan,  (or successor)
Director of Classification, Mississippi Department of Corrections,
723 North President St., Jackson, MS 39202, Tel.601-359-5002; Fax
601-359-6177; of the name(s) of each of his
Sheriff’s Trusty state inmate selections and request that each state
inmate selected be formally classified and placed on Sheriff’s
Trusty Status in order to receive applicable sentence reduction
credits for his/her work.
4. The letter of Sheriff’s Trusty notification required in
Paragraph 3, above, shall be mailed no later than 30 days from the
date of said inmates sentencing or within 30 days of the date of
this Order if not already sent.
5. The letter of Sheriff’s Trusty notification required in
Paragraph 3, shall also request that Ms. Jordan promptly confirm in
writing the formal trusty status of each Sheriff’s Trusty state
inmate, and it shall be the responsibility of the Sheriff to follow
up with the MDOC Director of Classification in order to receive and
keep on file written confirmation from MDOC that each Sheriff’s
Trusty state inmate housed in the Jail has actually been placed into
Trusty Status by MDOC, and is currently credited with the entirety
of all reduction of sentence credits earned by working.
6.    The   Sheriff’s   failure  to  perform  Trusty  Time
responsibilities and records directed in Paragraphs 3-5, above
shall, upon notice of same being filed, constitute grounds for
immediate and automatic disapproval of the Yalobusha County Jail for
housing State Inmates.
 7.    This conditional approval is expressly conditioned upon said
COUNTY JAIL achieving and maintaining full compliance with the ORDER
ORDER; with state law; and with all inmate work program POLICIES AND
PROCEDURES of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
8. The authorities of YALOBUSHA COUNTY JAIL, the Yalobusha
County Sheriff, and Defendants are prohibited and enjoined from
incarcerating or causing to be incarcerated in the Yalobusha County
Jail Sheriff’s Trustee state inmates in numbers greater than 2, and
total prisoners in numbers greater than 22 in the entire jail.
9. On or before the 1st day of every month, the YALOBUSHA
COUNTY SHERIFF or his designee shall notify plaintiffs’ counsel, by
FAX to 601-352-0104  (or by email  the total
prisoner population; of the COUNTY JAIL at the midnight count, on
each and every day of the preceding month.
10.    The Yalobusha County Sheriff shall quarterly report to
MDOC, on his official letterhead, all meritorious earned time, and
trusty time to which these working State inmates are entitled.
11.    The County Sheriff and/or Supervisors shall obtain from the
National  Institute  of  Corrections  a  corrections  professional
Technical Assistance Provider to conduct a comprehensive General
Assessment and Operational Review of the County Jail followed by a
written report of findings with recommendations for improvement.
Contact: Ms. Fran Zandi, 600-995-6429, Upon receipt
by County officials, the entirety of the NIC written reports and
recommendations shall be promptly copied and provided to plaintiffs’
12. The current Yalobusha County Jail Administrator and each
successor Jail Administrator shall register for,  attend,  and
complete, within a reasonable time,  the free of charge Jail
Administrator’s course for local detention facilities of the same
size, at the National Institute Of Corrections’ (NIC) Jail Center.
Contact: Ms. Ginny Hutchinson 800-995-6423, 202-307-5811.
13. All Jail officers, if they have not done so already, shall
be trained and certified, at a minimum, in accordance with the
requirements of Miss. Code Ann. Section 45-4-9.
14. The County Sheriff and/or Supervisors shall provide, at a
minimum,  the following Work essentials/incentives  for working
Sheriff’s Trusty state inmates:
A.    Allow at  least  4 hours  of  outside  “yard time”
opportunities in a the outside yard area (which shall be equipped
with a basketball goal and basketballs at a minimum) for state
inmates during work-day “off” hours,  and during mornings and
afternoons on weekends, holidays, and other non-working days.
B.    Provide and maintain in good repair at least one large
cable TV for working inmate use.
C.    Maintain sufficient supplies of clothes/jumpsuits,
underclothes, sleeping clothes, socks, shoes, towels, and personal
hygiene supplies to working inmates as needed.
D.    Allow working inmates to have and use personal
appliances with headphones (radio, TV, music) near or on attachments
to their bunks, and provide convenient electrical outlets near the
bunks to power said appliances
 15.    Yalobusha County authorities shall acquire and/or maintain
contract(s) with health care professionals to provide “Sick Call”
in a suitable clinic location on jail premises a minimum of two days
a week.
A.    “Sick Call” is care for an ambulatory inmate with
health care system requests that are evaluated and treated in a
clinical setting. It is the system through which each inmate reports
for and receives appropriate medical services for non-emergency
illness or injury.
B.    Sick Call provides inmates with an opportunity to have
their requests evaluated by health professionals and responded to
within a reasonable time.  While it is difficult to give precise
time limits, as a rule, non-emergency requests should be triaged
within 24  hours  and the  inmate  seen by a qualified health
professional at sick call within the next 24 hours (72 hours on
weekends); and, when necessary, a referral is made for the inmate
to see a physician within a week of the original complaint.  In
general, if an inmate reports to sick call more than two times with
the same complaint and has not seen a physician, s/he should receive
an appointment to do so.
C.    Triage is the sorting out and classification of
patient-inmate health complaints to determine priority of need and
proper place of health care.
16.    The County shall develop and implement written policy and
procedure, and written agreements with health care providers which
provide 24-HOUR EMERGENCY MEDICAL AND DENTAL to Jail inmates and
include the following arrangements:

A.    On-site emergency first aid and crisis intervention.
B.    Emergency evacuation of the inmate from the facility.
C.    Use of an emergency medical vehicle.
D.    Use of one or more designated hospital emergency rooms
or other appropriate health facilities.
E.    Emergency on-call physician, dentist, and mental health
professional services when the emergency health facility is not
located in a nearby community.
F.    Security procedures  providing  for  the  immediate
transfer of inmates when appropriate.
17. The County Sheriff or his designee shall contact Hon. Gia
McCloud, Director, MDOC Inmate Legal Assistance Program, 723 N.
President St., Jackson, MS 39202, Tel. 601-359-5614, to obtain and
permanently post the court approved notice to state prisoners in
county jails with regard to the rules, policies, and procedures for
state prisoner participation in the MDOC Inmate Legal Assistance
Program.  The Sheriff shall designate a member of his staff whose
duties shall be to read the notice to functionally illiterate and
other prisoners who have difficulty reading/understanding, and to
assist such prisoners in writing to and reading communication from
officials of MDOC’s Inmate Legal Assistance Program.
18. The “Monitoring of Compliance” provisions of the ORDER
shall also apply to the Yalobusha County Jail as follows:
A. Counsel for plaintiffs and/or his designee(s) shall have a continuing right, upon 24 hours notice, or without prior notice, to inspect Facility premises, privately to interview
 prisoners housed therein, and to examine, copy, and/or be provided with copies of relevant jail records, including medical records, contracts, or other documents and data pertinent to compliance with this order;
B. Said inspections shall include reasonable access for plaintiffs’ counsel and/or his designees to the Facility’s Warden, to Facility personnel, including medical personnel, to repair and maintenance personnel, to the Sheriff and members of the Board of Supervisors, and to State jail inspectors and supervisors for inspection, monitoring, and compliance discussion.
19.    On or before the end of the approval period granted herein,
CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION,  c/o Mark A.  Flowers,  CCE,  Director,
Standards and Accreditation; 206 N. Alexandria, VA 22314, office:
703-224-0070,, to obtain a copy of the American
Correctional Association’s CORE JAIL STANDARDS.
20.    Following receipt of the above CORE JAIL STANDARDS, the
YALOBUSHA COUNTY SHERIFF AND BOARD shall complete a self evaluation/audit (materials provided by ACA) of the YALOBUSHA COUNTY JAIL to determine compliance or not with said ACA CORE JAIL STANDARDS, and shall develop a written plan of action to correct all non-complying deficiencies noted.
21. The approval granted herein will automatically expire
September 1, 2009, unless renewed for good cause shown.
22. “Good cause shown” shall include whether or not YALOBUSHA
COUNTY has  completed,  with or without  a partnership with a
 neighboring county also needing a new jail, a plan, site, and design to construct, a NEW YALOBUSHA COUNTY JAIL to replace the old, out-dated, deteriorating, and poorly designed jail facility currently in use.
SO ORDERED, this, the 17th day of October, 2008.
/s/ JERRY A. DAVIS    
s/ Jim Hood, Attorney General Attorney for Defendants
s/Ronald Reid Welch, Attorney for Plaintiffs


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