Police chief: Jail consolidation successful so far

Published 12:20 am Friday, January 26, 2018


NATCHEZ — The past two weeks have served as a first look at what effects consolidating into one jail between Natchez and Adams County could have on the area.

Both Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong and Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said that time span is far too short to reach any conclusions, though the former is very pleased with the initial outlook.

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“I think we have already seen a savings, and we certainly have seen a trend to where there’s going to be savings,” Armstrong said.

Patten said he would not be able to comment fully until farther down the road.

“It’s too soon to tell,” Patten said. “Let’s see how things go over the next 30 to 90 days.”

For $30 an inmate per day held, the Adams County Jail began housing city inmates on Jan. 9.

During that time, the city has sent 12 inmates over to the county jail. While most of those spent little time in prison, Armstrong said at least two were serving 90-day sentences, though one of those had already served much of that sentence at NPD before the city jail closed.

The reason for the move, Armstrong said, is twofold: this system will theoretically cut down on costs overall, and the intake level at the city jail compared to its capacity did little to justify the need for two jails.

Armstrong said the city jail could hold approximately 60 inmates, though most days only a fraction of the jail’s cells were actually filled.

“Just because we have four, five, six inmates back there doesn’t mean that we reduced our staffing model,” Armstrong said.

Even just the reduction of jailers from nine to three, he said, would cut down on costs over the course just one pay period.

The reason to maintain some employees is because the department still handles all of its own booking. Fingerprints are taken, mug shots are snapped, and charges are recorded, among other steps of the process that Armstrong said could take upwards of 45 minutes to an hour.

Those who are arrested for less severe crimes, such as minor motor vehicle charges like driving under suspension, often either bond out quickly or are released under their own recognizance, which would not warrant a transfer to the county jail.

Otherwise, arrested persons are taken within no more than a few hours following booking to the Adams County Jail, where county personnel receive a booking sheet listing charges, the inmate’s medical questionnaire, and the affidavit or bench warrant.

All of the “legwork” occurs before the transfer to avoid placing an additional burden on the county jail employees

“All they have to do is have a uniform out and put them in a cell,” NPD Lt. Justin Jones said.

Any property that was on the person arrested — Armstrong gave the example of a pocketknife or other weapons — will remain at the police department for both investigative purposes and as a way to keep track of arrestees.

Armstrong said this system emulates how most cities and counties operate, and he sees it as an efficient way to handle inmates.

As for whether completely consolidating under one booking agency — which would eliminate NPD’s need to handle booking and place that duty under one roof — Armstrong said he is wary.

Though Armstrong said he would need to know more since he does not personally know of any area that functions under such a system, the chief questioned whether that would actually save money.

He also said the relegation of duties could cause more harm than good.

“The only thing you would be doing is transferring work that our officials are doing to county officials,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the county has worked very well with the city, helping to make the transition process smooth and efficient.