Come April 1, inmates of the state of Mississippi will no longer be housed in the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center as part of a cost-cutting measure by the Mississippi Legislature.
With this action, the facility will have to go a different direction in terms of its trusty program.
“We will be using our regular inmates more as trusties instead of state inmates,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Butch Howard.
The role of a jail trusty is to maintain upkeep of the Adult Detention Center as well as other county buildings.
“They keep the courthouse and other county buildings clean. They also pick up garbage along the roadside,” Howard said.
Prisoners who are incarcerated on crimes ranging from drug charges to DUI are eligible to participate in the trusty program. And Howard said there are no other special stipulations for them to be eligible.
“The ones who are in for armed robbery, rape and related charges — the hardened criminals — are not eligible for the trusty program,” he added.
The jail has already begun taking steps to prepare for the transition of no longer housing state prisoners as the number of state prisoners housed at the center has already decreased from 25 to 12, said Howard. The last of them will leave by April 1.
“We will have until April 1 to take care of this, and we are in the planning and preparations stages for that,” he said.
In all, the jail houses an average of 200 prisoners, according to Jail Administrator Billy Pickens.
“The number fluctuates, especially after Circuit Court dates,” Pickens said. “We tend to have more in here after circuit court ends, and they will stay for a short term period of time before they are sent to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman or other state operated correctional facilities.”
Sixteenth District Circuit Court sessions begin in Lowndes County on the second Monday in February, May and November and the third Monday in August. With the state inmates, Pickens said it calls for extra manpower in security.
“We have had to have an additional six to 10 guards manning the facility,” he said.
Reducing the state inmates, Howard said, will reduce costs on operations.
“It costs about $37 a day, and this should save us at least $45,000 or more a year,” he said.
Pickens said the Adult Detention Center receives an additional $20 per day from the state for housing state inmates. The city of Columbus reimburses the facility $25 per day per city inmate.
The total budget for the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center for fiscal year 2009-2010 is $3.05 million.
Allen Baswell was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.