Meridian, Miss. Between the Lauderdale County Detention Facility in downtown Meridian, and the Hilltop House on Highway 39, Lauderdale County can house 280 inmates before it has to start paying extra in medical and meal costs. Currently, there are 306 inmates between the two locations, putting a financial and manpower strain on the department. Sheriff Billy Sollie said he believes that the long problem of overcrowding led to Saturday night's incident.
"Two weeks ago, we had no Mississippi Department of Corrections prisoners," said Sollie. "That means persons who have been sentenced to serve time in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and today I think we're around 44."
The Lauderdale County Detention Facility was originally planned to house people charged with both felony and misdemeanor charges. But with more violent crimes being committed, the more dangerous inmates are taking up the majority of beds in the jail.
County Administrator Joe McCraney says he and the Board of Supervisors are looking at ways to alleviate the overcrowding for the upcoming fiscal year.
"We've provided some temporary relief to it, but I think we all need to sit down and try to figure out why the jail is overcrowded," McCraney said. "I would like to look at the whole picture, and if there's 160 or 170 who are pre-trial, let's see if we can hurry that process up and have a speedy trial because the jail is not a holding facility for long-term."
Sollie and McCraney both agree that something needs to be done.
"When you have this many individuals being housed, they become agitated, tempers flare, people can't get along, and you're going to have confrontations," Sollie said.
The sheriff's department will continue to pay extra costs for the extra inmates, as well as money to Kemper County to house some more until overcrowding is brought under control.