Alarming number of felony inmates in Lauderdale Co. jail

LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - Lauderdale County's sheriff is sharing his concern for the high number of dangerous inmates at the jail.

There are 243 inmates housed at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility. You might be surprised to learn how many are locked up for felony crimes.

"236 people that are charged with crimes other than simple assault, shoplifting, DUI, these people are here on felony charges," Sheriff Billy Sollie says.

Ninety-seven percent of inmates at the jail are accused of major offenses. They range from shootings to sex crimes to armed robberies, and the sheriff says a survey from last month found nearly two dozen of the inmates are charged in fatal offenses.

"Of that say 250 inmates, 21 of them were charged with either murder or manslaughter," Sheriff Sollie says.

It's a big concern to authorities, and especially for the detention officers that the jail is struggling to retain.

"They know the system," he explains. "They know that the system has very limited sanctions they can pose against them, so they are very difficult to deal with."

So why are they here? According to the sheriff, the criminal justice system is lowering its standards for incarceration. That means most of these suspects are repeat offenders, who know that they won't be held long for the crimes they commit, leaving behind only those accused of severe and often violent crimes.

"Misdemeanor offenders rarely go to jail, rarely stay in jail," Sheriff Sollie says. "So we have turned into a felony detention facility."

The sheriff says this is an issue that isn't just local. It has become a problem all over the country.