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Juvenile center considering hiring additional staff

NATCHEZ — Six months ago, the board of supervisors considered the daily inmate census at the Adams County juvenile justice facility almost too low to keep open.

Now, the facility’s administrator says the juvenile detention center may need to hire an additional guard.

When the supervisors were planning for the 2013 budget year in August, they expressed dismay to Youth Court Judge John Hudson that the daily census at the 25-bed youth jail was only four inmates, and instructed him to work with other youth courts to house — for a fee — the youth offenders from other counties. In January, Hudson told the supervisors that the daily census had been increased to nine inmates and that the facility had collected in three months approximately half of the amount of revenue it had collected in the previous year.

Monday, Juvenile Justice Administrator Kevin Nations said the daily inmate census is up to 12. Five of those juveniles are from Adams County, four are from Pike County and one is from Walthall County.

That increase is in part because Pike County closed its juvenile detention center Feb. 11 after deciding not to fight a lawsuit contesting the suitability of the center to house juveniles. The supervisors in Pike County voted to have their youth offenders housed in Adams County at the time they decided to close the facility, and since then Lincoln County officials — who formerly housed their youth offenders in Pike County — have discussed utilizing the Adams County center.

“We are getting to the point where we are going to need more guards,” Nations said. “You need an additional person in case you have an incident — we need one who can stay in the control room and operate it if you have an incident, and we need two guards.”

Currently, the center has two guards on day and night shifts. During the day, Nations, a teacher who works with the juveniles, and an administrative assistant are also in the facility. The extra guard would be needed for the night shift, Nations said.

“If something happens during the day, we can go back there and help them out,” he said.

Hudson said last week that it’s possible that other counties will consider utilizing the Adams County facility because with the Pike County closure Natchez is the closest youth center for much of southwest Mississippi.

“The numbers will probably pick up, and you can’t say from day to day we know how many we will get,” Nations said. “I have a good staff and a good relationship with Sheriff (Chuck) Mayfield and (Natchez Police) Chief White, and if I need any assistance we can call them.”

Federal law requires that youth offenders be housed both out of sight and sound of adult offenders.