Counties Told State Can't Pay for Housing Inmates

By: Lindsey Brown Email
By: Lindsey Brown Email

Lauderdale County and other counties in Mississippi use state inmates to do work for various government offices. The state has been paying counties a daily fee to house those inmate workers.

But Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps has told counties the state can't continue to pay, because it doesn't have the money.

Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie and other sheriffs will meet with Epps next Tuesday at the Law Enforcement training Academy at Pearl to discuss the situation.

Sollie says it's likely that counties will have the choice of keeping the workers without reimbursement, or sending the inmates to state facilities and losing them as labor.

Trusties are used in diverse ways, such as sweeping streets and delivering mail in county offices.

"We use them every day and that is a big plus," said circuit clerk Donna Jill Johnson.

Sollie says the current county budget included a projected income of $700,000 for housing state inmates. So far, $200,000 has been paid to Lauderdale County.

If the state stops future payments, it would mean $500,000 lost from the county budget this fiscal year.

Sollie says the question of what to do with the state inmates now is up to the county supervisors. He says they will have to decide what the inmate labor is worth.

"Right now, the state legislature has some tough decisions to make, education, corrections. Glad I'm not a legislator," said Sollie.

Over 800 state prisoners are placed in county jails currently. Around 20 of them are in Lauderdale County.


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  • by RC Location: Meridian on Feb 21, 2010 at 08:56 AM
    I agree with one of the previous comments. What cost will the county incur if they let this "free labor" go back to the state institutions. If we have 20 inmates working then we would need to hire 20 people to hire vacancies. My guess is the jobs wouldn't pay much, but when you add in medical and dental, retirement pension, and other benefits that government employees demand then the price might drastically eclipse what we would have to make up in expenses for housing these people. The supervisors should take a long look and weigh all the facts not just the short term savings. No government job has ever been gotten rid of.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 20, 2010 at 04:45 PM
    I can't see why the reports just scratch the surface. What is the cost to the county to house these people? What is the cost savings for their use, not only figuring salaries if replaced, but actual benefit as additional free labor? Then what would be the cost to continue housing and using them without reimbursement? What about the liability for housing them should they get ill or injured? Will the state cover those expenses or the county? Who gets these answers for the public if the media does not?
  • by lw on Feb 20, 2010 at 08:33 AM
    I hope the Supervisors decided to keep them here. I currently know about 9 of them and these are good people. They have made mistakes in their lives are changing them. How do I know this? 9 of them are currently attending my church on Sunday's. These are good people and are in jail for minor charges, mainly drugs. I have seen several in the past be released from jail and their lives are changed. I contributed that to my church allowing these people to attend church. The partake in church services and Sunday School. They are actually coming to my sunday school class. These are good people wanting to get back to their families. Most of the ones who have gotten out have been released early for good behavior.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 20, 2010 at 07:49 AM
    There is nothing these inmate laborers are doing that current employees cannot do. Sure, some may have to get a little busier, but the county will continue. And removing these inmates from the county jail will solve the overpopulation problem, and would likely make room for local misdemeanants to actually serve some time for crimes they commit instead of only getting fines. This could be a very efficient change for local criminal justice.
  • by mm Location: county on Feb 19, 2010 at 10:20 AM
    State inmates need to be in state facilities. Budgets set based on criminal activity doesn't sound logical to me. What if crime drops and you don't have the inmates? Also, the jobs that the inmates do, need to be jobs done by people who need a job and will pay taxes. These state inmates need to be in Parchment raising their own food, if they want to eat!!!
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