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Supervisors travel to Jackson to talk jail

Editor’s Note: The story as originally published incorrectly identified who traveled to Jackson to speak with legislators. Only Supervisor Mike Lazarus and Board Attorney Scott Slover made the trip. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.

NATCHEZ — Representatives from the Adams County Board of Supervisors met with legislators Thursday to discuss the possibility of privatizing Adams County’s jail.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus and Board Attorney Scott Slover, met with a Mississippi senate committee — including Sen. Melanie Sojourner (R-Natchez) — about the proposal.

Lazarus first made the proposal that the county negotiate a contract with Corrections Corporation of America — which operates the federal immigration prison, the Adams County Correctional Center, outside Natchez — to take over housing county prisoners in January. At the time, Lazarus cited maintenance costs and the eventual need the county will have for a new jail.

Lazarus said the supervisors met with the legislators for approximately an hour to find out of they could proceed with negotiations with CCA. Adams County would be the first county in the state to enter into such an agreement if it is allowed to proceed, he said.

Local-private legislation would ultimately be needed before the negotiations could move forward.

“We don’t want to negotiate with CCA if the state doesn’t want to do it,” Lazarus said. “The senators wanted to know why we needed to do this, and we told them Franklin County is interested in this as well, but what is the use in going forward if the state is not going to approve it?”

It’s possible such an arrangement could save the county between 15 and 30 percent of its costs if the cost of building a new prison is factored into the negotiations, Lazarus said.

“This is fixing to be a problem all over the state,” he said. “There are counties all over this state that don’t have the money to build prisons or make the upgrades they have to because of the changes to regulations that have gone through.”

Even if the legislation is ultimately drafted and approved, CCA will still have to petition the federal government about building a new facility on the prison grounds, Lazarus said.