ISSAQUENA COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – Board members met Monday to discuss the future of the Issaquena County Jail, which is set to close on December 17th.
James Smith said he’s been working at Issaquena County Correctional Facility for 23 years, and he will be retiring in two years.
If the jail closes this year, Smith said he fears what will happen to his retirement and his future in the small county. “I may be able to make it with the time I have left, I’m not sure at this time,” said Smith. “But I know it would hurt this community and it will hurt me. I’m getting to the age where it would be hard for someone to hire me for certain things. The only thing we have left to do here is farming, and I really don’t want to have to do that.”
Smith is just one of the facilities 53 employees, all sharing the same fear. The Issaquena County Jail has remained a huge source of employment in one of the poorest counties in Mississippi.
The Issaquena County Board of Supervisors met on Monday to discuss the future of the facility, although no official decision was made at the meeting. Officials cite a lack of proper finances as the reason the facility’s future hangs in the balance. Currently the jail houses 320 inmates. If the facility closes, the inmates will have to go elsewhere.
“I can’t tell you where they would go, but I hope it doesn’t get that far,” explained Sheriff Richard Jones. “We hope and pray the supervisors will make the right decision. It’ll impact the whole community. It’s the only thing that makes us successful.”
Sheriff Jones said he was told the jail began having financial trouble in January. He recalled that when the facility was state-owned it got $29.94 per inmate, per day. Now with the facility being run by the county, it gets $25.61 per inmate. Jones says he hopes more money will be delegated towards the facility, so it won’t have to shut it’s doors.
Jones said “I hope to get our per diem up like we want. And that legislators can allocate enough money. Hopefully they can see the burden we have, and take it under consideration. And give us what we need to go.”
Sheriff Jones said the next board meeting will happen later this week. For now, board members have agreed to keep the facility open, at least until the next meeting date.