Site near Courthouse recommended

Published 11:52 pm Friday, May 11, 2012

Less talk and more action for a new county jail was the top recommendation by the Warren County Grand Jury, whose members wound up a week of work Friday.

“The studies have already been done, and instead of continuing to do more studies, we recommend that more aggressive action be taken to pursue the funding needed,” the report states.

A new jail has topped grand jury reports for more than a decade, but the report is the first in years to strongly suggest action instead of studies.

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The Warren County Jail was built in 1906 and renovated in the 1970s. It can house up to 128 inmates and usually is at capacity with pretrial detainees. City inmates often are jailed at the Issaquena County Correctional Facility, increasing costs to cover housing and transportation. In 2009 the Warren County Board of Supervisors hired a consultant to study the county’s jail needs and recommend a potential site for a new jail.

“(W)e feel that the board should investigate possible federal funding or additional means to assist with this project,” the report states.

The grand jury recommended seeking a site near the Warren County Courthouse for the jail. The current jail on Cherry Street is just across Grove Street from the courthouse, which houses courtrooms for the 9th Judicial District Circuit Court, Chancery Court and Warren County Court, as well as offices of the county’s circuit and chancery clerks and the tax assessor and collector.

The 18 members of the grand jury were selected and sworn in Monday by presiding Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick. Throughout the week, they reviewed evidence in 118 criminal cases involving 128 defendants, returning indictments in 98 cases and 16 no-bills, meaning jurors did not believe presented evidence warranted trial. Charges in one felony case were reduced to a misdemeanor. Another case was dismissed by the state, and four cases were returned to the next term.

Jurors also toured the jail and Youth Court. Because of renovations at the Warren County Children’s Shelter, the tour there was canceled. They also met with Sheriff Martin Pace, County Prosecutor Richard Johnson and Youth Court Judge Johnny Price.

Their report of recommendations also included:

• Parents of children in youth court should continue to participate in parenting classes and programs.

• Vicksburg Warren School District should put in place education and intervention programs for elementary school students.

The Warren County grand jury meets four times a year, in January, May, July and October.