Counties to Make Decisions on State Inmate Workers

By: Rachel Alig Email
By: Rachel Alig Email

Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps told Mississippi sheriffs Tuesday that the state does not have the money to continue paying for the housing of state inmates in county jails.

Because of the budget shortfall, officials statewide have to decide how to handle inmates who are providing labor.

Sheriff Billy Sollie with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department says the county is evaluating a few options.

"One of the options is send the inmates back to MDOC. We would lose those 24 inmates who are providing us with labor," said Sollie. "Another option is to keep those 24 inmates here at Lauderdale County, not receive the reimbursement from MDOC, but still maintain the labor pool that we have."

The county is facing the possibility of losing all of their assistance, along with the reimbursement they receive from the state.

"Those inmates serve as mail runners, between the various offices and the courthouse, and the courthouse annex," said the sheriff. "They do the laundry for us, as well as provide us with other custodial and maintenance operations for the county government."

If Lauderdale County decides it will not house the inmates, the county won't be the only thing affected. The entire state of Mississippi will feel the impact, including taxpayers.

"And this has a ripple effect. These individuals are currently serving as inmate trusties," Sollie said. "Every day that they work, they get a day off of their sentence. So if they are taken out of the work pool and taken to MDOC, they're not working their sentence off which means they're going to stay longer in MDOC custody. So that's going to hurt the state taxpayer again."

Officials will discuss options with the Lauderdale County board of supervisors at its work session Thursday.

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