Booking Room Escape Prompts Big Changes In Hancock County

An escape from the makeshift booking room at Hancock County's temporary Sheriff's Department, has prompted changes.

Just after midnight Monday, 36-year-old Timothy Reid walked out of the booking area, still in leg irons. He was captured 40 minutes later about a mile away.

Sheriff Steve Garber says the incident shows it's time to put prisoners somewhere more secure than the temporary location in the Kiln. The sheriff's answer is a quonset hut at the county complex on Longfellow Road.

A 4x12 foot holding cell will lock down inmates while they await transport to the Pearl River County Jail. That's where Hancock County inmates have been housed since Katrina took the county jail out of commission.

"Basically, we're going to book them in here and get them moved out. If it's a misdemeanor, we're going to bond them out. But anything major, felonies or anything like that, they're going to go straight to Pearl River County to be booked in and processed there," Sheriff Garber said.

The holding cell can hold up to ten people. The booking room in the Kiln had no holding facility.

"We were in a big open room with folding chairs. We really had no security there," Sheriff Garber said.

"They're not going to be able to just get up and walk out if someone isn't paying attention to what they're doing," Hancock County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Richter said.

Sheriff Garber said the escape reaffirms the need for a jail in Hancock County. It's been nearly two years and no decision has been made on rebuilding the storm damaged facility.

"One problem we're facing, between insurance and FEMA money we got a little more than $2 million to rebuild. And rough estimates on the jail is closer to $5 million," Sheriff Garber said.

County leaders are scrambling to find funds to make up the shortfall. But until that's worked out, law enforcers will continue to operate with temporary fixes.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department books more than 300 people every month.

The new holding cell will begin holding inmates immediately. But the department's administrative offices will remain open at the Kiln location.