Ferrell: State should double up inmates

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2000

A judge’s Monday order that Mississippi must pay a $1.8 million penalty for overcrowded prisons may force the state to do something county jails are already doing — double bunk prisoners, said Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell.

&uot;I find it alarming that the state penitentiary has not been doing what county jails have been doing for years,&uot; Ferrell said. &uot;It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that (double bunking) is the answer.&uot;

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Jerry Davis ordered the state to pay the $1.8 million by Oct. 1, even though state prison officials worked all weekend to remove state inmates from unapproved county jails and for the first time in 15 years were not violating a federal court order.

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Davis also said he will begin monitoring county jail populations Aug. 1 and fine the state $100,000 a month for any overcrowding.

The Adams County Jail, which can hold up to 140 inmates, is an approved facility for housing up to 18 state inmates. But Ferrell said the jail houses close to 30 now.

&uot;I don’t think it’ll make any difference whatsoever,&uot; Ferrell said.

Ferrell said double-bunking prisoners sounds like a better solution than one already suggested – suspending or weakening the state’s truth-in-sentencing law, which requires prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

&uot;Law enforcement is on record adamantly opposed to early release for prisoners,&uot; he said. &uot;It does not work. … I don’t think that’s a solution, and I don’t think the public would support early release.&uot;

Another option could be sending more state prisoners to private jails, such as the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, which is run by Corrections Corporation of America.

Wilkinson Warden Jody Bradley said that facility had about 875 of its 1,000 beds filled Tuesday. He does not know whether Davis’ ruling will affect the Wilkinson facility.

&uot;(The state Department of Corrections) may decide to put some prisoners here if they move some around,&uot; Bradley said. &uot;Right now we don’t know.&uot;

Ferrell said the only state inmates housed at the Adams County Jail are people who are convicted and sentenced in Adams County.

&uot;That’s only fair because this is a county jail,&uot; Ferrell said. &uot;Taxpayers built this jail to protect this community.&uot;