JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - After officials from George and Stone counties spoke out about a financial hit due to a loss of inmates, Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher says MDOC is not responsible for their finances.
In a statement released Friday, Fisher said, "Those citizens may want to question the wisdom of the officials in their respective counties who based budgets on inmate populations that cannot always be guaranteed," Fisher said. "While I sympathize with the citizens of the affected counties, the Mississippi Department of Corrections cannot continue to pay counties above contract requirements when it has space to house the inmates. I have an agency to run. Public safety is paramount to MDOC's mission, not subsidizing counties' budgets."
In interviews with WLOX, regional officials say they not only did they have little notice of the move, they were not given an explanation as to why it the state's three prisons took in more than 600 inmates from regional facilities. Because MDOC was paying regional facilities almost $30 a day to house inmates, the move has resulted in a loss of nearly $72,000 per month.
However, MDOC says they notified wardens at regional jails that inmates would be moved.
The department says that on Feb. 5, they announced a reduction in state inmate populations to the contractual amount of 80 percent capacity due to budget constraints. According to Fisher, the 2016 budget for MDOC was $23 million less than the recommendation from the Legislative Budget Office, and the budget was cut an additional 1.5 percent (around $5 million) in January for the remainder of fiscal year 2016.
"MDOC's 2017 budget request does not include an increase in funding," Fisher said. "We don't know what our final budget numbers are going to be at this time. We are aware that revenue is down and that the Legislature has the unenviable job of determining the funding level for all state agencies."
Additionally, Fisher noted that none of the inmates were sent to private prisons, nor has MDOC offered to pay off a sheriff's bond and close a county facility.