PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County needs a new detention center, and time is running out. The current jail is overcrowded and outdated, putting officers and prisoners in danger.
Jackson County Board of Supervisors President John McKay says it's only a matter of time before tragedy strikes because of it.
"If we happen to have a riot out there, an officer get killed, a prisoner get killed because of the overcrowding, any type of mishap like that, it could lead to multi, multi-million dollar lawsuits that could affect this county for years to come," he warned.
Designs for a new facility are complete, but their future lies in the hands of Jackson County residents. In November, voters will decide to accept or reject a $22 million bond issue, which would pay for the project.
If the jail bond passes, the new center will be surrounded by a large wall, trees, and a pond. Overall, it will be a far cry from the traditional chain link fence surrounding the current facility.
Jackson County residents agree that it is more aesthetically pleasing than a traditional jail. Some residents liken the design to a sports complex, or a nice office building.
"It looks quite good, you know, for it to be a jail," said Pascagoula resident Miranda Moore.
Others have reservations about the design.
"I think I'd prefer to see something along the lines of maybe where it looks like a jail, not necessarily like a rec area," said Gautier resident Tim Posvar.
It may look like a rec area on the outside, but the jail's interior would be no walk in the park. Its security features include a video courtroom, better security cameras, and electronically locking cells.
"It is designed totally with safety in mind, and with an aesthetic appearance also," said McKay.
Voters have other reservations, particularly with the new jail's potential location in the heart of Pascagoula, and across the street from the old facility.
"I would much rather for it to be off somewhere else," said Moore. "I travel the road that it's on quite a bit and I see the inmates out there."
Many Jackson County residents don't like to see inmates playing basketball or sitting outside the facility on Telephone Road. But contrary to popular belief, the prisoners there are not the inmates housed in the Jackson County detention center. The facility people can see from Telephone Road is a state prison, and the inmates are part of the state trusty program. The state prisoners will remain there despite the outcome of the jail bond vote.
County Supervisors also say the proposed location is not necessarily final. The vote in November would not lock the project into the proposed location. It would only allow the county to take out a loan. McKay says, however, that the board has looked extensively into other locations within Pascagoula, and hasn't found another suitable one. State law requires that the Adult Detention Center be located in Pascagoula.
The county would not have to raise taxes to build the new jail. However, McKay says the chance to build the jail without a tax hike is once in a lifetime.