Inmates’ return delayed by painting of cell block

Published 11:13 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moving 18 inmates back into a smoke-damaged portion of the Warren County Jail was delayed so the cell could be painted, Sheriff Martin Pace said.

The cell block was damaged Monday when inmates lit pieces of paper and bed sheets on fire, Pace said. The inmates were sent to Rankin County Monday night and expected to return Wednesday, but the cell was scheduled to undergo routine maintenance that would require the inmates to be moved again.

“It could have been occupied yesterday,” Pace said about the cell block. “It didn’t make any sense to move them back in and six weeks later move them back out.”

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Following the fire, one inmate was treated for smoke inhalation and released from River Region Medical Center, and 18 others were taken to Rankin County Jail in Brandon, Pace said. Brandon is about 50 miles east of Vicksburg.

Warren County is responsible for the cost of transporting the inmates to and from Brandon and will pay Rankin County $30 per day per inmate for housing and meals as long as those prisoners remain in the Rankin County Jail.

The cell — a metal roof, walls and bars inset into the building — was not structurally damaged, and the fire did not cause the cells to need a fresh coat of paint, Pace said.

“Normal wear and tear chips that paint,” he said.

Pace said that once the inmate or inmates who started the fire is discovered, he will be charged with arson. No one had been charged this morning.

The Warren County Jail was built in 1906 and renovated in 1977, Pace said. Only a small part of the 1906 facility is still used to house prisoners, Pace said. The 128-bed facility had 141 inmates at the time of the fire, Pace said, and overcrowding is expected to continue through the end of the month when the Warren County grand jury meets for its October term.

Pace said the county is looking as far away as Brookhaven to house prisoners. Brookhaven is about 70 miles from Vicksburg.

The grand jury, which meets in January, May, July and October, will tour the jail and other county facilities at the end of the month and make recommendations. In the past four years, a new Warren County Jail has been at the top of the grand jury report 15 times.