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Sheriff: Adams County leaders need to address jail needs

NATCHEZ — Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said Tuesday he is open to the idea that the county privatize its corrections system, but regardless of what the county supervisors decide in that regard, something has to be done about the jail.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors agreed Monday to begin investigating — without necessarily committing to the idea — the possibility of having a private company operate the county lockup.

Mayfield said he has spoken with county leaders about the possibility of privatizing and that it is an option he is willing to explore. The other option is building a new jail, he said.

The potential cost of a new jail was one of the reasons Supervisor Mike Lazarus gave for why the supervisors should explore the options of having corrections operated by a private firm. Other reasons included that maintenance on the current jail is very expensive, liability to the county would decrease and a possible general savings could be made by contracting with an outside company.

Mayfield said Tuesday the maintenance and security concerns of the current jail will soon prompt action one way or the other

“In a building where security is paramount, that becomes a problem when you start having these issues with the locks, the (door) motors being burned out,” he said.

The jail’s heating and cooling systems are constantly in need of repair, the physical building has settled over time and cracks have appeared in the walls and many lighting fixtures are damaged.

“The inmates in there, they don’t have anything to do other than to try to mess something up,” Mayfield said. “(Things in the jail have) been broken, repaired, broken, repaired and broken and repaired again.”

Even the jail’s design needs improvement, Mayfield said.

“The general design of it is outmoded, outdated, and newer systems are a lot more secure in the way they are built, where it’s easier to watch the prisoners better than we can,” he said.

The sheriff’s office also needs more office space, Mayfield said, and he said that if a new jail was built or the prisoners were housed elsewhere it might be possible for the current jail area to be reclaimed for office space.

If a new jail is the option the county has to take, the sheriff said it would likely be built somewhere outside the city limits.

“Most new jail facilities are using pod systems like they did at (Adams County Correctional Center), which seem to be a little less costly,” Mayfield said. “It’s done prefabricated and they just come in and set it up. But if we do that, I can’t see that going with downtown or even finding the space in town to do that.”

While the sheriff said he does not think transporting prisoners to and from a facility outside the city limits would be a major problem, he said justice court already allows for video arraignments and preliminary hearings.

Two factors will ultimately be important in what decision is made, Mayfield said.

“We have to ask what is most cost-effective and what can we afford to do?” he said.

“The other thing is my employees. I am going to take care of them.”