Jail remains jurors’ top concern

Published 12:30 am Saturday, May 7, 2011

An overcrowded and potentially unsafe county jail again topped the list of concerns of the May term of the Warren County Grand Jury.

“We are concerned with the health and safety of the workers and the condition of the jail and courthouse,” jurors wrote.

They also said the Board of Supervisors, while working toward locating land for a new jail and finding a way to pay for it, need to consult the people who work there.

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The panel of 18 grand jurors was selected Monday and sworn in by presiding Circuit Court Judge M. James Chaney. While their primary charge is to review evidence in criminal cases and issue indictments, grand jurors also tour the Warren County Jail.

They also attend the county’s Youth Court, tour the Warren County Children’s Shelter, meet with local law enforcement and judicial officials and issue a report with recommendations.

Warren County grand juries have for years recommended a new jail.

The jail was built in 1906 and renovated in the 1970s. It can house up to 128 inmates and is usually at capacity with pre-trial detainees. City prisoners often are jailed at the Issaquena County Correctional Facility, increasing costs to cover housing and transportation. With the approaching flood, prisoners have been moved to the Madison County Correctional Facility and will be housed there indefinitely.

The May grand jury panel was also concerned that juveniles in the criminal justice system have to be sent out of state for evaluation, its report stated. “Money spent for rehabilitation of our youth is better use of tax dollars than money spent on incarceration,” jurors wrote.

Jurors completed their term Thursday, after reviewing evidence in 113 felony cases against 142 individuals. They issued indictments in 95 of the cases, returned two cases to be considered by the next grand jury panel and reduced five cases to misdemeanors.

The names of 57 defendants indicted in 64 felony cases were released Friday following their arraignments. Indictments are not made public until defendants have been arraigned and assigned trial dates.

The jury also issued no-bills, meaning not enough evidence to charge, in 13 cases. The names of those defendants were not available Friday. A second round of arraignments is set for Monday morning.

The Warren County Grand Jury is convened four times a year. The next terms will begin July 25 and Oct. 31.