Adams County needs prison facility

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Two companies, GEO and CCA are competing for a federal contract to place a federal prison facility in Adams County. They are the “Coke” and “Pepsi” of the prison industry in the United States. Both companies have excellent reputations for constructing and operating safe and secure facilities, and both currently operate facilities in Mississippi.

The type of facility that is being proposed for Adams County is a low-to-medium risk, 1,500 bed facility, meaning it could be a “white collar” incarceration facility or a facility that would hold illegal aliens. Upon conclusion of serving their sentence, no inmate will be released into the general population in Adams County.

These companies are planning on constructing an 80 to 90 million dollar project in Adams County, which will generate in excess of $500,000 in taxes for the entire community by increasing the assessed valuation of the county.

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Secondly, they plan to hire approximately 300 employees (by the formula of one employee per five inmates) with the majority of these employees being local residents, dieticians, counselors, custodians, maintenance workers, detention officers, clerical workers, administrators. Further, they plan to purchase their supplies from local suppliers and use local specialists such as plumbers, electricians and heating and cooling specialists. We have 78 residents that live in Adams County that travel every day to Angola prison in St. Francisville, La. A prison in Adams County would allow these residents to get jobs here instead of spending travel time commuting. If we remember back a few years ago, there was a young man traveling back from Angola to Natchez who fell asleep at the wheel and was killed when his car hit a tree.

CCA is not just looking at Adams County as a proposed site, they are also looking at Pike and Walthall counties. A petition of 1,500 signatures of electors will simply reduce or possibly prevent our chance of getting their facility in our county. If presented with a petition, the board of supervisors would have to set and election, and the county would spend $14,000 to $18,000 for an un-budgeted election.

I have met with our governor, our senators and congressmen who support a federal prison for Mississippi and, specifically, Adams County. The governor personally told me that Yazoo County has three prison facilities that he was instrumental in getting. That has helped that county tremendously in providing jobs for local residents. He also said to me “federal prisons are good, clean industries.”

As far as inmates escaping, these companies have an excellent record preventing inmates from escaping. Even if one happens to escape, nine times out of 10, they are going to try to get as far away from Adams County as possible.

The reality is that Adams County is surrounded by prisons, one in Jefferson County, one in Wilkinson County and one in Concordia Parish.

I know that no resident wants to live near a prison, but we have residents that live near jails.

The county jail and juvenile detention facility are on State Street of downtown Natchez. The city jail is located on D’Evereux Drive, directly adjacent to Old Washington Road.

These areas are heavily populated. As Alderman James “Ricky” Gray said in one of our board meetings, “It’s not the people behind bars that we should be worried about, it’s the ones on the streets that we need to be worried about.”

We need jobs in Adams County so let’s support this economic endeavor. It will go hand in hand with our new federal courthouse.

Darryl Grennell is president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors.