No matter how we slice it, we need a new county jail.
The current facility in the county industrial park in Gallman was built in the mid 1970’s with Copiah taxpayer funds. Soon after it was utilized, it was out of date. Inmate capacity, which is officially in the 50-55 prisoner range, has been exceeded nearly every week for several years. The facility, in grand jury reports for many terms, has been cited for its poor conditions.
Sheriff Harold Jones, since taking office in 2004, has remodeled parts of the existing jail, improving it to the limit it could be improved. The department has used seized drug funds and grants to do much of the work, saving local taxpayers thousands of dollars. Trustees have taken care of some of the work, too.
Now, Jones, is campaigning feverishly and passionately for the county to be on the list to receive a new regional jail. County supervisors, too, have expressed their desire for a new facility, especially one that will not require a tax levy or bond issue. Corrections commissioner Chris Epps has visited the area. Jones and the supervisors have toured other regional facilities, and have been impressed with what could be here in our county.
A new regional jail would provide enough space for the Sheriff’s department and a county jail. And, thanks to a contract between the county and the state, the facility would stay at least 80% full–and more than likely it would be 100% full–for 20 years. Feeding, housing and other daily costs incurred by prisoners would drop dramatically. The facility will be completely secure, and would be designed to look not-so-much like a prison.
The state would pay most of the cost of construction over a period of 20 years, after an initial bond issue by the Board of Supervisors. Local taxpayers would get a break on the cost and the facility would more than server our needs.
A new regional jail would bring something else that everyone desires–jobs, and ones that would bring much better than average wages.
A great location for the new jail in the Hazlehurst industrial park is available. Let’s hope that the state, county and city can work out the details to secure the site, and bring the new jail to the county.
We need to support Sheriff Jones, the Board of Supervisors, the State Department of Corrections and the Aldermen of the City of Hazlehurst on this.
Joe Buck Coates