View Full Version : Article: Talk of A/C at jail heats up at board meeting

01-26-2005, 10:49 PM

By Mark Thornton/ (, January 26, 2005 4:16 PM CST

Supervisors got red hot when talk about air-conditioning a new 16-bed jail for state prisoners started at last week's board meeting.

"I'm not for air-conditioning a jail," Beat 1 Supervisor Eddie Womble said. "It'll take a court order for me to do it." Beat 2 Supervisor Charles Fancher agreed.

"We've got too many law-abiding citizens out there that can't afford air-conditioners," he said.

Sheriff William Lee, who asked for the air-conditioning unit, agreed with them, but added, "Things aren't like they used to be. This is a new age ... new facilities do have (air-conditioners). They have to." However, a Mississippi Department of Corrections spokesman said that state facilities aren't equipped with air-conditioning and county facilities that are approved to house state inmates for the MDOC aren't required to have air-conditioning.

"I don't know of any mandate from us," said Tara Frazier, a communications officer for MDOC. Air-conditioning may be required for facilities that are accredited by private agencies such as the American Correctional Association, she said.

The Attala County Jail annex, which will house 16 state prisoners when it's complete, is being built in response to a lawsuit filed by prisoners' rights advocate Ronald Welch in October. In the suit, Welch accused Lee of exceeding the jail's maximum capacity of 18 inmates.

Since the lawsuit, the Attala jail has stayed at or near its limit and the overflow is being housed at the Winston County Correctional Facility at a cost of $20 per day for each prisoner. Exact figures weren't available, but the cost to the county exceeded $30,000 in the first three months.

Housing the prisoners in Winston also costs his department dozens of man hours every week, Lee said.

"My deputies have to go back and forth taking them there, bringing them back for court, to the doctor ..." Lee told supervisors.

City and county prisoners are housed in the Attala County Jail, which was built in 1957. Up to 16 state prisoners can also be housed there. The state pays counties $20 per day for each state prisoner they house.

Board president Troy Hodges complained about the cost of the annex, which is being built by Lee and trusties.

"It's already over budget," Hodges said.