Former Chamber chief volunteers to lead jail exploratory task force

Published 8:06 pm Sunday, September 10, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Debbie Hudson Germany has volunteered to lead an exploratory committee to determine what can be done to solve the crisis that is the Adams County jail.

“We have to do something,” Germany said Friday morning. “You can’t have economic development or anything else until we get this problem under control. Right now, I have time to help with this, so I’m going to.

“We may not be able to build a new jail right now, but we have to get started exploring the subject and determining the possibilities,” she said.

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Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten declared the jail unsafe to house prisoners after a security breach by a group of inmates on the weekend of July 30 caused a massive flooding event in the jail.

Adams County and the City of Natchez, which was housing its inmates in the county jail, are now contracting with the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office to house the county’s inmates.

The only inmates being housed in the Adams County Jail now are trusties, those on mental health holds and those waiting to be transferred to Concordia Parish.

Germany spent 24 years as a schoolteacher before going to work for Southwest Mississippi Planning and Economic Development, followed by a stint at the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Department of Economic Security.

She retired in May 2022 after 15 years as president and chief executive officer of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce.

Germany went to the meeting of the Adams County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and told them she was forming this committee and asked they appoint someone to serve on it with her.

She said she plans to ask the same thing of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen at its next meeting.

“Nobody has done anything about this in 30 years,” Germany said. “We can’t ask the sheriff to do all the work on this. He has other things he needs to do. We can’t ask the supervisors to do this. They don’t have the money and it’s not their job. The city is in the same boat. They need a place to hold people, too.

“I went to the sheriff and asked if I could help, and he said, ‘Yes, please do.’ The sheriff has some really good contacts with people on the federal level who help find funding for jails. That’s what they do. We are going to meet with them next week,” Germany said.

Part of the impetus for Germany’s task force is to find a way to include help for those with mental illness into the equation.

Mississippi is one of the few states, if not the only state, that still houses those in need of mental health services in county jails.

“If I can help facilitate action on this, I want to do that. I am good at putting the right people together,” she said.

“I would like to have the county appoint someone, the city to appoint someone. I would like someone from economic development and someone from the business community. Someone from mental health. I would like for us to meet within the next two weeks, and I told the county supervisors that,” Germany said.

“I am just trying to get the conversation started and see where it leads. If we don’t, we will never have it,” she said.