Yet another Jackson County jail controversy

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A small group of Jackson County citizens wants the Board of Supervisors to stop the process of selecting a new jail, and start over again.

Supervisors have been looking at two designs; both would hold more than 800 inmates. The citizens claim another design is cheaper, and would cost less to run. They say this design has been ignored, and they want to know why.

Ocean Springs attorney Andy Alfonso represents the citizens who question the jail selection process.  They say the design by GS&M Architects, metal and steel buildings, would cost $19 million to build with plenty of room for further expansion on the jail property.  The company has designed 176 jails across the country.

So why isn't it being considered? Alfonso doesn't hold back.

"They are either ill informed, they're foolish, or they are corrupt," Alfonso said.  "I know those are powerful words, but that's the only explanation. It is the difference between doing the right thing, doing something good for the community or doing something that's absolutely horrible for the community."

Supervisor John McKay is just as quick to fire back.

"I think that's a lawyer trying to intimidate," McKay said. "He knows none of the facts whatsoever and he's speaking out of turn."

McKay has corresponded with the group via e-mail for only the past month, while the selection process has been going on for two years.  He questions the group's late entry into the debate.

"The big thing is, if we let them in, so we let everybody in and open it all over again and go on for another year or two. No, that's not the right decision."

Sheriff Mike Byrd has not talked openly about the process until today.  He also has concerns.

"It's not my place to design a jail. I'm not an architect. But I think we should have been asked as to what we needed and not after the fact," Byrd said.

While the sheriff has expressed his frustration at the entire process, to this point he has not publicly stated which jail design he prefers. However his warden, Major Ken Broadus, has no reservations at all stating what he wants to see happen.

"The brick and mortar design is by far the best," Broadus said.  "There's no question about it as far as I'm concerned. When you look at the security concerns that are there, I think that the facility is far safer for the general public and for the inmates."

Alfonso says his group will not give up.

"They work for us; they work for the people," Alfonso said.  "It's my tax dollars that pay their salaries and it's our group's tax dollars that pay their salaries, and they are lending a deaf ear, so to speak, to the answer."

That answer may come in three days, but it may not be the answer the group wants to hear.

The Board of Supervisors will meet at 9am on Monday. From all indications, the vote on a new jail will take place.  Of course, WLOX News will cover that meeting and keep you updated on what happens.

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