View Full Version : Lawmakers pass jail housing bill

05-05-2004, 01:35 PM
May 5, 2004

Lawmakers pass jail housing bill

Counties to get $20 per day to hold state inmates

By Andy Kanengiser (

Mississippi's county jails for another year will continue to receive $20 per day for housing each state inmate, based on a bill lawmakers passed Tuesday.

The approval from both the House and Senate broke a month-long impasse over reducing the daily reimbursement rate and ends the worries of sheriffs and supervisors.

"Sheriffs realized if the money was cut or reduced, county supervisors would have to make hard decisions,'' said Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie. Cutting the rate to $15 would have sliced state funds to Lauderdale County by $200,000 annually, he said.

Currently, more than 2,100 state inmates are in county jails. The Mississippi Department of Corrections will continue to pay the $20 fee to counties through 2005.

The bill now goes to Gov. Haley Barbour. Barbour spokesman Pete Smith said Barbour is "very pleased'' the rate will stay at $20 daily, noting it's well below the tab to house inmates in state prisons.

But Barbour must study other issues in the bill before he decides whether to sign it, Smith said.

Passage of Senate Bill 3218 breaks a deadlock caused after House Corrections Committee Chairman Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, earlier this session wanted to slice the daily fee to counties to $15 to cut costs by $7 million for the Corrections Department.

The bill also calls on the Legislature's Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee to study daily costs for the state to house prisoners in county jails. PEER must report its findings to lawmakers by Dec. 31.

Malone said he's hearing wide-ranging estimates from $5 to $40 daily per inmate and wants the 2005 Legislature to reconsider that issue.

Mississippi's county jails are "the cheapest route'' to house state inmates, said Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, a former prison administrator. It makes no sense to remove them from county jails beginning July 1 and incarcerate them in private and state prisons at higher costs, he said.

It costs $36.77 per inmate per day to house prisoners at the State Penitentiary at Parchman and state prisons at Rankin and Greene counties, said Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps.

Also, the bill agrees to a request by Malone to increase capacity at the private Walnut Grove Correctional Facility near Carthage from 750 inmates to 1,000 inmates. The prison in Malone's district houses offenders under age 21.

The decision to expand the capacity at Walnut Grove "had an influence on me,'' Malone said Tuesday. "We needed to get the Walnut Grove figures (capacity) up. There are so many juveniles (offenders) out there.''

Malone was criticized by a number of officials for allowing prison legislation to die when he refused to call it up.

Rep. George Flaggs Jr., D-Vicksburg, voted against the bill on Tuesday because he said the legislation "sends the wrong message about children's future.''

Source: Jackson Clarion Ledger ( %2fapps%2fpbcs%2edll%2farticle%3fAID%3d%2f20040505 %2fNEWS01%2f405050382%2f1002)