By David Howell
COFFEEVILLE – County supervisors began divvying offices in the freshly acquired Carothers Building at their July 7 board meeting held in Coffeeville. Supervisors voted to allocate just over a third of the 30-plus offices and space at the house located adjacent to the building for the Department of Human Services offices currently housed on Main Street in the old Renasant Bank building.
The county took possession of the building last month after Sean Carother’s donated the building, several adjacent buildings and outlying acreage to the county.
Also discussed at the July 7 meeting was allocating the back third of the building to house the sheriff’s department. No official action was taken on this matter. Supervisors had previously identified the land behind the Carother’s building as a potential place to construct a new jail.
“The sheriff is going to make a presentation on the 20th, to let everybody see what he can offer. Everybody needs to be here,” Supervisor Tommy Vaughn told fellow board members.
Humphreys’ told the Herald his presentation will outline a plan to construct a new jail that would utilize an annual payment from the Mississippi Department of Corrections for housing 25 state inmates, plus the existing money already budgeted to operate the current jail to construct a new facility.
“I have a plan that will allow the construction of a new jail housing 56 county inmates and 25 state inmates without raising taxes,” Humphreys reported.
Replacing the 40-plus year-old jail has been an ongoing topic at board meetings, dating back to December, 2007, when supervisors met with Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps.
At that time, supervisors passed a resolution approving the county as a site for a regional jail, housing an estimated 300 state prisoners and 90 county prisoners. The county hired a consultant in early 2008, and lobbied state legislators to approve the county for the facility.
Legislation was nixed in the final days of the 2008 session, and Yalobusha and 14 other Mississippi counties also vying for a regional jail came up short. A similar bill in the 2009 session was even less successful, as legislators faced funding shortfalls after the state and nation was engulfed in a recession.
The regional jail would have generated an estimated $3 million in the county, based on a daily payment for each inmate housed, an amount that would have offset the expense of building a new jail.
“I have been told by multiple legislators and others involved in the state’s correctional process that the regional jail concept will not be back on the table for years,” Humphreys told the Herald.
Further complicating the issue is a September 1 deadline handed down in federal court requiring Yalobusha County to show steps are being taken to build a new jail or the county will no longer be able to house state inmates.
This ruling came following a jail inspection last October from prisoner rights attorney Ron Welch, who successfully argued in federal court that the county’s jail was “old, out-dated, deteriorating and poorly designed.”
The July 20 meeting will kick off at 9 a.m. at the Coffeeville Courthouse.