Build a new jail, another grand jury tells Warren County

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 7, 2009

A new county jail remains at the top of a list of recommendations for improving law enforcement in Warren County, grand jurors selected for the August term said in their written reports.

Sworn in Monday, the panel of 17 people selected at random from voter rolls reviewed evidence in 113 cases against 124 individuals, and issued indictments in 101 of the cases. They no-billed 12 other defendants in 12 cases, deeming the evidence to be insufficient to prosecute felony cases, and prepared and issued their formal report.

A modern, larger jail has been recommended by Warren County grand juries for many years. The current 128-bed facility on Cherry Street, the original portion of which was built in 1908, is perpetually filled and the overflow population housed at the Issaquena County Correctional Facility nearly 60 miles away in Mayersville.

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“We are pleased that the board of Ssupervisors is actively pursuing the study and construction of a new jail facility,” the jurors wrote in the concluding report. “We are pleased that they are proceeding with diligence concerning the decisions to be made about the new facility.”

Supervisors hired a Colorado-based consultant in August 2008 to prepare a recommendation for size, location and features needed in a new jail. District 5 Supervisor Richard George, board president, said in June that construction is still at least three years away.

“It’s a five-year proposal if it’s to be done properly, and we’re in our second year,” George said to a local civic group.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace commended the board’s timing and thoroughness. “We’re nowhere near the point of selecting locations,” he said in an interview July 31. “We don’t have the needs and staffing report done yet. My hat’s off to the supervisors for doing it properly and hiring a national firm to do a professional study.”

A new jail will cost $12 million to $18 million, George said.

The grand jurors toured the jail Wednesday, and among their report comments commended District Attorney Ricky Smith for initiating a pretrial intervention program that will get first-time, non-violent offenders out of its cell blocks and into the community with jobs and doing community service.

Grand jurors also recommended that another circuit courtroom be added to expedite cases. The Cherry Street courthouse includes three courtrooms, one each for circuit, county and chancery courts. The county leases a former auto dealership on Clay Street as a backup courtroom.

Also in their report, grand jurors recommended that taxing agencies promote a no-tax-credit policy for businesses that do not allow time off for their employees, without the fear of losing their jobs, to represent their children in local court proceedings.

Among its other recommendations that echo past grand jury reports were more investigators for Vicksburg police, county sheriff, the DA’s office and the local arm of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics; citizen contact with state representatives urging more support and reform of the juvenile justice system; and new and updated equipment for local law enforcement agencies.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at