New jail essential, grand jurors say|[10/21/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 21, 2005

In the strongest terms yet from a grand jury, construction of a new county jail was urged by a panel that met this week.

&#8220Recommendation – The board of supervisors obtain funding for a new facility through any and every avenue available,” the jurors wrote in their report delivered Thursday to Warren County Circuit Judge Frank Vollor, who empaneled the jury Monday.

The panel was the fourth and last scheduled to be convened here this year. Its predecessors in recent years had made similar but less-specific comments about the jail.

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The grand jury that met in July, for example, recommended that the county &#8220initiate (the) exploratory process of replacing (the) current county jail with an updated facility that can be improved as needed.” And the one that met in January recommended that the county begin a long-range study of its facilities needs, &#8220including correctional facilities.”

A recommendation that the county build a new jail was included in the report of the January 2004 grand jury but that recommendation was at the end of a list of recommended improvements or upgrades to the current jail.

This week’s panel, by contrast, was more direct.

&#8220The current facility used for the county jail and sheriff’s office was built in 1907 and remodeled in 1977,” it wrote. &#8220It is unsafe and unsanitary for employees and inmates due to the inadequacy of the design.”

Long-range planning is under way that may lead to a new jail’s being built, Warren County Board of Supervisors President David McDonald has said.

The oldest portion of the jail was built nearly 100 years ago and its annex was built to the east 28 years ago. The jail stays at or near capacity and design advances that can improve safety for both inmates and staff have been made in the years since the facility was built or added-onto, Sheriff Martin Pace has said.

This week’s grand jury also suggested adding crews and vehicles to the city-county ambulance service and stationing them outside the city limits to improve rural response times.

The group met with Deputy Chief Rose Shaifer of the Vicksburg Fire Department who said the department has five staffed ambulances each shift.

&#8220To further protect the health and safety of the citizens of Warren County, two ambulances/crews need to be added to the five that Vicksburg has at this point,” the report said, adding they should be based for better response to outlying areas.

In a separate recommendation the panel voiced its support of Pace in his &#8220efforts to secure the courthouse through additional law-enforcement personnel” and that &#8220additional security measures be pursued per the sheriff’s recommendations in a timely manner.”

In a step toward increasing security of the courthouse the county government has approved Pace’s request to hire four additional deputies to be dedicated to courthouse security. Funding for the hires was in place as of Oct. 1 and hiring and training requirements mean that citizens should begin seeing increased security in and around the building early next year.

Video-surveillance cameras of the building’s front- and back-door areas have been in place for several years, Pace said.

The grand jury also: