Washington joining counties with new jails

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 14, 2009

If you snooze, you lose.

Upstream in Greenville, the Washington County Board of Supervisors has accepted bids for the construction of a new corrections facility that will function both as a jail and a prison for male and female inmates.

By hiring a general contractor and an architect, the supervisors will be ready Monday to get started building what is expected to be a $13 million facility.

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The 500-inmate, medium-security prison will be able to house 300 female state prisoners and 90 prisoners from the city jail. About 10 cells will be reserved for federal prisoners and the remainder will come from the county jail.

By billing the city, state and federal governments, supervisors hope to hold down the county’s share of costs.

Downstream in Natchez, the private Corrections Corporation of America has been taking applications for 400 jobs at its 2,500-inmate Adams County prison facility that will operate under contract to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

And, of course, in neighboring Issaquena County, officials are still cashing checks from Vicksburg for about $400,000 per year to house overflow from the Warren County Jail — deemed hopelessly overcrowded at least 12 or 15 years ago.

To their credit, the Warren County Board of Supervisors has actually initiated a process that may someday lead to actions like those already taken in counties north and south. Two years ago, a delegation was sent to a planning conference and last fall planners were hired. At this writing, the planning process is under way to determine the best course of action in terms of size, site and funding.

To the east, Hinds County is also in something of a dilemma. Delay and a drop in state income and inmates appear to have scrapped a $14 million regional facility there.

As bad as economic times might be now, they’ve been as bad or worse and for a longer time in Washington, Adams and Issaquena counties. But those counties not only met their own needs, they may have cornered the market on any chance Warren County and Vicksburg had to defray local expenses by housing state and federal inmates.

If you snooze, you lose.