Impasse Over Jail Contract

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Tuesday started with the Meridian City Council unanimously rejecting a proposed contract offered by Lauderdale County supervisors over the housing of city inmates at the county jail.

"I find myself at a point where we have a contract approved by the board of supervisors and sent to the city council that I can't support," said Dr. George Thomas, Ward 1 Councilman.

Mayor John Robert Smith said the city attorney's office proposed there be a fair contract or no contract at all, and the city would be prepared to take back its prisoners at 12 midnight.

The supervisors answered met Tuesday afternoon and rejected the city's version and agreeing to a course of action. Twenty one city prisoners are presently housed in the county jail. Four are felons.

"So for clarification, what happens when we recess this meeting is that your recommendation is that the prisoners that are there before midnight tonight can stay there. We take no more prisoners?" said Crag Hitt, President of the Board of Supervisors.

"You don't have a contract," said the board's attorney, Rick Barry.

The city has prepared two holding cells in the former city jail at the police station and apparently has received offers of space from nearby counties as well.

But as for the Lauderdale County facility, "To get on the record, I'm not supposed to accept anyone after midnight tonight and the city can leave those 21 prisoners here as long as they want to," said Sheriff Billy Sollie.

Not as long as they want to, emphasized Barry, but a "reasonable time."