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Legislature locks up county jail privatization

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s inquiry into whether or not it can privatize the county jail appears to be locked up indefinitely in a legislative committee.

The supervisors voted in January to inquire if Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Adams County Correctional Center — a private prison which is contracted to house federal immigration prisoner — in the northeastern part of the county, could take over operations of the county jail.

The proposal was first put forward as Supervisor Mike Lazarus cited maintenance costs and the eventual need for a new jail facility to replace the current one in downtown Natchez.

Such an arrangement would require local and private legislation approved through the state Legislature, and two bills that would approve the arrangement are in the state house and senate local and private legislation committees.

But Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Natchez) said Friday the legislation will never leave the committee.

That’s because officials in the committee and with the commission on corrections felt like there wasn’t enough communication between all of the involved parties ahead of time and that there were some other issues that would need to be fleshed out before such legislation could be approved, he said.

“If we are going to do anything that is different and innovative, I think everybody should be on board,” Johnson said.

Supervisors’ board president Darryl Grennell said after the board sent the inquiry to the Legislature, CCA officials said the plan likely couldn’t be done anyway, making the inquiry a moot point.

Supervisor Calvin Butler said CCA officials told him the federal regulations they have to operate under probably wouldn’t allow it.

“It would be very hard for CCA to manage that kind of facility on that (property) they are on now,” he said.

Grennell said the board would not likely pursue the privatization course of action when considering the jail’s future again.

“It was worth a shot; it just didn’t happen,” he said.

“We didn’t make plans saying ‘Let’s do it,’ we were trying to get the legislation in place just in case the numbers worked out in the best for the county, so it doesn’t even make sense for us to now do the study now to determine if it would be feasible.”

The current Adams County jail was built in the 1970s and is operated by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

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