Harrison County Looks At Regional Jail Idea

The problems are overcrowding and soaring costs. Now Harrison County supervisors want to know if replacing the county jail with a regional jail could be the solution. Next week they'll get the chance talk with the commissioner of the State Department of Corrections.

As of Tuesday morning, the Harrison County Jail warden said there were 884 prisoners in the jail. It has a capacity of 760. While some steps have been taken to alleviate overcrowding, a possible long term solution could be a regional jail. WLOX went to Stone County to see how the change from county to a regional facility is working there.

Back in 1999, Stone County officials say they were having to cram 50 to 60 inmates into a jail built to hold 14 prisoners. That all changed in 2000 with the construction of a $5.8 million Regional Correctional Facility paid for with revenue bonds.

Warden Dwayne Brewer said, "MDOC, Mississippi Department of Corrections, guaranteed 200 state inmates which would more than pay for the bonds on this building. So no local tax money goes into financing for this building."

The contract with the state is for 20 years. Right now, Stone County Regional Jail has 280 state inmates. The state pays $29 a day for each of those inmates.

"We are self-supporting," said Brewer. "In other words, all this is paid for by revenues we receive from the housing inmates; state, federal and county inmates. Now it does cost the county for housing inmates, but it's only like $12 a day for a county inmate."

The warden says that $12 a day, per inmate is all Stone County pays. Everything else from maintenance to the 42 employee salaries and benefits comes out of a $3.8 million budget which is entirely separate from the sheriff's budget. In fact, the warden says state prisoners save the county money.

"They go out and work with the road crews, pick up garbage and other things, so that is a great savings to the county. When you have an employee, you might as well say he's out there doing it with no cost to the county," said Brewer.

County Supervisors say the Regional Jail is a good fit. Board president Duncan Hatten said, "The way Stone County is growing right now. If we had to run our own jail with the employees and everything it would be a great expense."

Dwayne Brewer said, "If there's any downsides, I haven't found it yet."

The Stone County Regional Jail also houses federal inmates for $30 a day, per inmate, and city of Wiggins inmates for $20 a day, per inmate. Still, it is still below its capacity of 395 inmates. The Regional Jail has vocational facilities, as well as treatment for alcohol and substance abuse.

State Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps is scheduled to meet with Harrison County Supervisors on Monday.