Meridian, Miss. President of the Board of Directors of the Industrial heritage Museum, James McRae, has a plan he believes can solve several of Meridian's downtown issues at once. He wants to build a jail complex that will house the jail, sheriff's department, and courtrooms somewhere else in the county, while turning the annex building back into a hotel, because he believes downtown can't flourish with the jail in the center of it.
"Every time you come downtown, you usually see prisoners outside," said McRae. "You a lot of time see prisoners being transferred to the courthouse, and as I've stated in the letter, I just don't think it will happen as long as the jail is here."
Sheriff Billy Sollie says that he is 100% in favor of moving the current jail out of downtown to a new jail complex located somewhere else in the county. He believes they could build bigger, and that would solve the always-present problem of their overcrowding. Sollie said he has seen many other Mississippi counties do the same thing.
"I know in Forrest County down in Hattiesburg, they've just completed a 660-bed facility there, and up in the northwest, I think they're looking about a thousand bed facility," said Sollie. "There's probably a half dozen or so counties in the last 4 or 5 years that have increased their capabilities of protecting the citizens."
The Board of Supervisors voted to give McRae 6 months to meet with developers about building a new jail complex, and renovating the annex building into a hotel at no cost to the county.
District 3 Supervisor Josh Todd says, "After the end of 6 months we'll come back to the drawing board at a work session and start trying to iron everything out; seeing what they have come up with, what they haven't come up with, and go from there. This isn't going to be something where we'll be moving the jail within 6 months or a year. This is going to be an ongoing project."