Sheriff Says Hancock County Needs A Jail Again - - The News for South Mississippi

Sheriff Says Hancock County Needs A Jail Again

The blue roof still dangles from the top of the Hancock County Jail in Downtown Bay St. Louis. Inside, signs of the storm's vicious surge and driving winds are everywhere.

Deputies, jailers and prisoners were still there when Katrina hit. They moved to the higher floors as the water rose.

Almost a year later, there's still standing water on the floors and mold and rust cover almost every exposed surface.

"It's going to take a lot of refurbishing if we go back to the jail," Hancock County Sheriff Steve Garber said.

The decision on whether to attempt repairs the 20-year-old building will depend on structural tests. County leaders want to know if the foundation was damaged.

"There are some buckles spots in the floor and all. I think they're going to do some testing in the floor to see what the extent underneath is. I know all the electronics in the jail, which are very expensive, all that is ruined with the salt water," Garber said.

Just before Christmas, the Sheriff's department moved into quarters at a strip mall on Highway 603 in the Kiln. Inmates were moved to the Pearl River County Jail in the days right after the storm.

"There's a lot of transporting involved every time someone has to go to court. We have to go pick them up, it's probably about 40-45 minutes each way. We're going back and forth, gas is $3 a gallon. We're spending a whole lot of time on the road."

Sheriff Garber isn't sure if the best solution is to repair the old jail or build a new one. But he knows the county needs a jail and hopes to get a plan in place soon.

Board of Supervisors President Rocky Pullman says money from FEMA will fund most of the repairs to the jail. Pullman says state and federal law won't allow for a new jail to be built on the same site because it's located next to railroad tracks.

by Al Showers

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