Some inmates may have to begin sleeping in tents

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 27, 2008

NATCHEZ — Overcrowding at the Adams County Jail is on the brink of leaving some inmates sleeping under the stars.

On Friday Sheriff Ronny Brown said the jail only had five beds left for inmates.

When those beds are filled new inmates will start sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

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And when the 30 newly ordered mattresses run out, inmates will live in tents behind the county jail, Brown said.

“We haven’t seen it like this before,” he said.

Brown said of the facility’s 130 beds, 10 rooms with double beds have no bathroom facilities and cannot have the doors locked.

Since the doors cannot be locked the rooms are used for storage.

That leaves 110 bed spaces.

On Friday, Brown had 103 inmates but two of the remaining spaces are rooms specially designed for the mentally ill and do not house average inmates.

“We only have five spaces left” Brown said.

Jail administrator Maj. Charles Harrigill said he expects those beds to be filled by the end of the weekend.

Brown said there are several factors that have crowded the jail.

Increased drug arrests, theft to support drug use, inmates who cannot make bond and a clogged court system have all contributed to the cramped quarters, he said.

Approximately 80 inmates are in the jail now that cannot make bond and approximately a dozen waiting to be transferred from the city jail to the county.

But Brown said he has no intentions of lessening the pressure on the criminal element to alleviate the pressure in the jail.

“If you’re selling drugs or stealing you belong in jail,” he said.

In August Justice Court Judge Charles Vess said the court was experiencing a court schedule more packed than ever and said the court also needed an expanded facility.

On Friday Vess said he was not aware of the crowding at the jail.

“It’s a cumulative effect,” he said of the situation.

Brown said while he does not want to, he will have to house inmates in tents behind the jail if the crowding continues.

Brown said the only alternative to that is sending inmates to other county jails.

But that is extremely expensive, he said.

The sheriff’s office recently billed Amite County $32,000 for holding three of their inmates for little more than a year.

The jail is currently only housing one federal inmate, which they are contractually obligated to do, all the rest are from the county or the city.

Harrigill said the since many other counties are in the same situation as Adams County, finding the bed space outside the county is not likely.

“It’s not a good situation,” he said.

And just how the situation will end remains to be seen.

“We’re going to find out,” Brown said.