Jail overcrowding is a problem that's costing Lauderdale County taxpayers extra money for food and medical coverage. Southern Health Partners provides medical insurance for inmates who are housed in the Lauderdale County jail in downtown Meridian and at the Hilltop Honor Farm, which is for state inmates who are working as trustees.
As part of the contract, Lauderdale County pays Southern Health Partners a flat rate to provide medical coverage for up to 280 inmates. The county is charged an additional fee for every inmate over that number and for each day that he or she is housed.
"The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors and finances of the county are responsible for the additional food costs, additional medical costs and just the overall expenses," says Sheriff Billy Sollie.
Two weeks ago the downtown jail and Hilltop Farm were thirty inmates over the flat rate limit. On this day, the facilities are over by eight.
Sheriff Sollie says a move by the city of Meridian to place ankle bracelets on some of its offenders has eased the problem to a degree, but he contends that more must be done.
"As more laws are created by the legislature and as law enforcement becomes better in enforcing these laws, we're going to have to come up with some alternatives to incarceration or build more jails."
With the problem persisting, Sheriff Sollie says Lauderdale County officials are examining an alternate option for some offenders.
"We're currently using the ankle bracelets with our youthful offenders. We are in conversation with our justice court judges, as well as our chancery judges about utilizing ankle bracelets, particularly on the deadbeat dads."
Sheriff Sollie stresses that this option of ankle bracelets for 'deadbeat dads,' in the county is still not official. At this time it's unknown when or if any action will be taken to make the change.
The maximum capacity for the Lauderdale County Detention Center in downtown Meridian is 290 inmates. It's 30 for Hilltop Honor Farm. The jail's budget is $3.9 million. With just under six months left in the current fiscal year, more than 57% of the jail's budget has already been spent. The current fiscal year will end September 30th.