Jail Overcrowding

As the population for the Lauderdale County jail continues to exceed capacity, the cost to house the inmates also continues to rise.

The facility in downtown Meridian is equipped to house up to 290 inmates. As of Thursday morning 287 were there, and an additional 20 from the jail were being housed in neighboring Kemper County, which has agreed to help ease the overcrowding problem.

"We estimate and have submitted with our budget for the upcoming year that if we maintain that population in Kemper in the 20 to 30 range, that's an additional $250,000 of money that we will have to increase the budget for the Lauderdale County Detention Facility," says Sheriff Billy Sollie.

This is aside from the 3% increase in costs that the jail's food service and medical coverage providers are each calling for starting the next fiscal year.

Meanwhile, as the jail's occupancy rate steadily exceeds its capacity, the big questions are, 'What can and will be done to address this issue long term?'

"You have two options," says Sollie. "Number one we can do nothing or number two we can add additional space. We would like to have that discussion, but as we all know the board of supervisors just voted for a $14 million bond issue for recreational activities and the renovation of the courthouse."

For that reason, Sheriff Sollie says additions to the jail anytime soon are unlikely.

Currently Lauderdale County pays Kemper County $20 per day, per inmate to house the extra inmates there. With no long term solution at this time, Sheriff Sollie says there's no choice but to pay the costs.

If Lauderdale County supervisors renew the contract with the current food service provider, the cost for each meal per inmate will increase from $.97 to $1, and the cost for medical insurance will rise to $339,000 per year.