Grand jurors urge input on new jail

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Warren County Grand Jury has again placed the condition of the local jail at the top of its list of concerns.

Jurors, convened this week by presiding Judge Isadore Patrick, echoed the primary concern of nearly every grand jury that has served in the last five years.

“As in the past,” they wrote in their report, “the issue concerning the conditions of our jail facility was discussed. We are concerned with the health and safety of the workers and the condition of the jail and courthouse.”

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While they noted that the Warren County Board of Supervisors is “proceeding with diligence” to make decisions about a new jail, the grand jury expressed its concern that “the anticipated cost and design of the new facility will not meet the needs of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department if input is not obtained from the personnel that will be working in the facility.”

The Warren County 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.

In 2009, a consultant was hired by the Board of Supervisors to study the county’s jail needs and recommend a potential site for a new jail. Guidelines said 20 to 50 acres will be needed to build a jail capable of housing at least 350 inmates.

A five-member panel has been formed to review site offers, and supervisors have estimated possible costs at $20 million to $30 million.

A second recommendation in this week’s Grand Jury Report was that supervisors should place a higher priority on funding and resources for the county’s Youth Court.

Mental evaluations of those youths brought before the local juvenile justice system have to be made by out-of-state providers, the report noted, and funds spent “for rehabilitation of our youth is better use of tax dollars than money spent on incarceration.”

The panel of 18 jurors was selected Monday from a pool of about 250 Warren County residents.

They reviewed evidence against 135 defendants in 123 cases, issuing indictments in 100 of the cases and returning no-bills, meaning not enough evidence to go to trial, in 26 cases involving 22 defendants. One case was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Indictments are usually not made public until defendants have been arraigned in circuit court, formally advised of the charges against them and given a court date.

Ten defendants were arraigned Thursday and 42 Friday. Patrick also issued arrest warrants for defendants not appearing as ordered for arraignment.

In addition to reviewing felony cases, grand jurors met with Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, County Prosecutor Ricky Johnson and Youth Court Judge Johnny Price.

They also toured the jail, the Youth Court and the Warren County Children’s Shelter — the subject of their third and final report recommendation.

Jurors concurred with former panels in recommending that the Board of Supervisors continue to fund the children’s shelter, and said they were impressed with the facility and the dedication of its staff.

The grand jury is convened four times a year in Warren County. The next term will begin Oct. 31.

Those no-billed this week and their original charges:

• Jeremy Austin — armed robbery.

• Adleine Bingham — aggravated assault.

• Demetrice Blackmore — aggravated assault.

• Rhuevenia Buck — possession of a weapon by convicted felon and aggravated assault; retaliation by a witness.

• Dewayne Carson — sale of a controlled substance.

• Robert Lee Curtis — domestic violence, third offense.

• Brian Darden —failure to notify.

• Chantrey Davis — aggravated assault..

• Cedric Hall — domestic violence, third offense.

• Brenda Irving — grand larceny.

• Allen Jones — statutory rape.

• Carol Lanford — grand larceny.

• Marquis McCroy — sale of a controlled substance (two cases); possession of a controlled substance; possession of a firearm by convicted felon.

• Shandrick Montgomery — arson.

• Joshua Orr — grand larceny.

• Roland Scott — statutory rape.

• Talesha Sylvester — aggravated assault.

• William Thigpen — aggravated assault.

• Bethany Thomas — child abuse.

• J’Breda Warren — aggravated assault.

• Angela Williams — embezzlement.

• Dexter Yates — domestic violence, third offense.

One case was reduced to a misdemeanor:

• Gregory Oliver — domestic violence-aggravated assault.