Pearl River County Set To Open New Jail

Pearl River County is just days away from getting a new jail and public safety complex. A rash of escapes in the late 90s pushed supervisors to build a new jail. The $9.2 million facility will replace a jail the Sheriff says is falling apart.

The new building in its final stages of completion is centrally located in the middle of Pearl River county on Savanna-Millard Road in the Millard community.

"This room is going to be our master control room. This is the main central hub for the jail operations," Chief Deputy Aaron Russell said.

From that room, deputies will be able to watch every inmate, employee and visitor at the new Pearl River County jail. Monitoring 38 cameras is as simple as touching a computer screen.

"I can select any camera I want to and change to that view," Russell said.

Security doors also open and close on touch command.

"The system is designed where multiple doors can not be opened at the same time. It's an extra security feature preventing fast access whether it be in or out," Russell said.

Doors and windows in the cell blocks come equipped with special mirrored glass.

"So if an inmate is looking out, they will not be able to see out to the other cells."

The 57,000-square-foot building can house 418 inmates. The old jail was built for 28 people, but routinely must handle as many as 175.

"We wanted to build a facility that was not only big enough for present day Pearl River County and Pearl River County ten years from now, but Pearl River County 20 years from now, 30 years from now," Pearl River County District 4 Supervisor Robert Thigpen said.

The new facility also has rooms for programs designed to rehabilitate, not just incarcerate.

"[They are] designated for faith based programs, education programs, AA, NA, those kinds of things that we're not able to currently offer at our old facility, " Sheriff Joe Stuart said.

"This is going to be our medical ward. We have two cells that will be isolation cells to house inmates with any type of contagious disease. For example, TB," Russell said.

Detainees with mental health problems will have cells designed to keep them from harming themselves.

Some large open rooms will house non-violent criminals. Dangerous inmates will be locked down in the maximum security block.

"Our maximum security cells have solid concrete walls and also eight inch concrete ceilings."

Russell says breaking out of there will be almost impossible.

The complex will also become home to the Sheriff's Department Headquarters, dispatchers, investigators. Even the county's Emergency Management Agency will be housed in the building.

The facility is expected to be ready to move into by mid August.

by Al Showers