Tempers flare over Jackson Co. jail discussion

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Tempers flared at the Jackson County Board of Supervisors meeting when the topic of replacing the overcrowded jail came up.

"You refuse to think out of the box," Alice Baker told supervisors.

For vocal jail opponent Alice Baker, the box is the plan to build a new jail in the middle of Pascagoula. Baker feels the voters made a clear statement against the plan when they rejected a $22 million bond issue that would have paid for the facility.

"I feel like it is being ignored, and you all are not working to resolve the situation," Baker said to the board.

Supervisors immediately rebuffed her accusations.

"We looked at many, many sites over the years. And we talked to your group on many, many occasions," Supervisor John McKay said.

"We have gotten painted as the bad guys here. We are trying to move forward and we are trying to solve a really big problem," Supervisor Manly Barton said.

For supervisors, the really big problem is an outdated, overcrowded jail that must be replaced.

For residents like John Simpson, there are two big problems - the downtown Pascagoula location and the cost. Instead of borrowing millions, Simpson says the county should cut spending to pay for the jail.

"Reduce our services by as much as ten percent, and set up a replacement jail fund to put as much as eight mills of money into that for the next two years," Simpson said.

Alice Baker says supervisors haven't done enough to find a better location for the jail.

"They have land off Highway 57 and off of 63 that the county already owns."

But it would take legislative action to build a new jail on that land. Right now, the jail must be located in the county seat of Pascagoula.

"Pretty much everywhere we look, we were running into problems," Barton said. "When we talked about getting a local and private perhaps through the legislature, we didn't get a lot of encouragement from the legislature."

Supervisor Barton says everyone will have to agree a new jail is needed now.

"We need to solve this, and we are trying our best."

The opposition group also proposed forming a Criminal Justice System Committee to determine the requirements for the replacement of the jail.

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