Jackson County Supervisors investigate new inmate policy

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County supervisors are now investigating the legality of the sheriff's new policy to control overcrowding at the jail.

WLOX News first told you Wednesday, Sheriff Mike Byrd said the jail will no longer house certain fugitives specifically those arrested in Moss Point, Pascagoula and Ocean Springs.

It's the latest face off between the sheriff and other law enforcement agencies in Jackson County. Some city police chiefs say the sheriff is punishing them after forcing an investigation of a shooting incident at the Narcotics Task Force Office. ]

The debate over where fugitives will be secured now has the attention of county supervisors.

Sheriff Mike Byrd said although he has received a lot of heat for his new inmate policy, it will improve safety and security at the jail.

"Our jail is very old, it is in bad condition and we are overcrowded. This is just a situation that we are really, really concerned about the safety of the inmates and our staff," Byrd said.

But Supervisor Melton Harris and Pascagoula and Moss Point's police chiefs said they disagree with the new inmate mandate.

"I think the police chiefs are still alarmed about it. They know once these criminals are apprehended, they would much prefer they be moved to the county facility," Harris said.

Under the new guidelines, the county jail will only take in Gautier and Mississippi Highway Patrol NCIC fugitives due to an existing contract. But Harris and Moss Point's police chief said last year, Moss Point also signed and inmate agreement with the county.

"If I am aware, it is still in place that we will house those inmates, and I think it was a $35.00 fee," Harris said.

But according to the sheriff's department, by law it has the right refuse prisoners due to overcrowding. The department also claimed Moss Point's chief was unhappy with the bonding and other terms of the agreement and wanted out.

"He told us that wouldn't work, and that was not acceptable, and he would take his inmates back to Moss Point," said county jail assistant director Ray Bates.

Jackson County Board President John McKay was out of town when he heard the news of a new policy. During a phone interview, he told WLOX News the county is now doing its own investigation.

"We are having Paula Yancey, our board attorney research the issue to make sure we are within our legal grounds to do so," McKay said. "Without speaking to Sheriff Byrd, I can only hope that his policy is to basically protect the county from our history of overcrowding."

Supervisors said they expect to have all the questions and concerns about the new policy answered as soon as possible, so they can resolve this issue at Monday's board meeting.

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