George stands by timeline on jail

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 19, 2009

Construction of a new jail in Warren County to replace the perpetually filled, 128-bed facility on Cherry Street is realistically still three years out, and Warren County Board of Supervisors President Richard George defended that time frame on Thursday.

“It’s a five-year process if it’s to be done properly, and we’re in our second year,” Geroge told the Port City Kiwanis group as guest speaker of its weekly meeting. “There’s been a lot of talk about the time frame and references to other municipalities that have recently built jails. Here in Warren County, we’re dedicated to making the best decision we can for Warren County — and there’s not a quick remedy when you’re planning for a facility that will be able to serve the community for the next 40 to 50 years.”

At an estimated cost of between $12 million and $18 million, depending on its size and location, the jail is too big an investment to build without the appropriate planning, he said. Supervisors hired Colorado-based Voorhis/Robertson Justice Services Inc. as a consultant last August, and George said the board will get its next quarterly visit from representatives of the firm July 13.

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Voorhis was chosen from three firms that submitted proposals, and is to be paid $139,908 for its services. Company representatives have said they plan to have a final draft of their study and recommendations to supervisors by the end of the year.

George said the supervisors are still kicking around the issue of how many beds should be included in the jail, and if it should be built big enough to take on overflow prisoners from neighboring counties. Spending on housing its municipal detainees in other counties, primarily neighboring Issaquena County, was expected to drain city coffers by more than $400,000 this fiscal year.

“You don’t want to build a facility that is too small before it’s finished, but you also don’t want to build a jail you can’t afford,” he said. “We’re probably looking at about a 300-bed facility.”

A location for the new jail is another issue still being discussed, said George. A new facility could be built in the city, perhaps on the site of the current jail, or it could be located in the county. Advantages of having it located in the city are lower transportation costs to get inmates to court, George said, but building it in the county would allow extra land to be set aside for future expansion. Supervisors are also considering the impact a larger facility will have on the community in regard to its location, he said, and how the total cost will affect the county’s ability to continue to provide adequate services to its law-abiding, tax-paying residents.

“When you undertake something like this, you better know what it’s going to cost you and how you’re going to pay for it,” he said. “We have a lot of factors we have to weight out.”

Warren County grand juries, for years, have consistently identified a new jail as the No. 1 priority facing the county justice system. In Greenville, the Washington County Board of Supervisors recently hired an architect to build an estimated $13 million, 500-bed, medium-security prison. In Natchez, a private company called Corrections Corporation of America is taking applications for 400 jobs at a correctional facility that will house about 2,500 federal inmates under contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The $128 million facility was completed in December.


Contact Steve Sanoski at