Starkville and Lowndes County are discussing an agreement that would allow Starkville to reserve beds at Lowndes County’s juvenile detention center.
Due to a recent spike in juvenile crime in Starkville, the city has been trying to find new solutions to reduce the risk of continued misconduct, including a juvenile detention center.
In May, Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill called a meeting with regional counties and municipalities to discuss a potential juvenile detention center for all of the Golden Triangle. Lowndes County owns a detention center, but the center’s annual budget of just short of $1 million only allows the county to utilize six of its 24 beds, board of supervisors president Trip Hairston said.
Spruill and City Attorney Chris Latimer are constructing an agreement with the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors to reserve two beds full time at the detention center for Starkville juvenile detainees.
“We used to think we didn’t have access to detention facilities,” Spruill said. “(Youth Court Judge Lydia Quarles) has said she has to hunt for detention facilities across the state. In order to make an impact … having an opportunity for (access to an area) detention facility is important.”
Hairston said he is “on board” with working with the city of Starkville. By entering this interlocal agreement, Lowndes County would also benefit because a constant source of revenue would come into the center.
After the document is finalized, Starkville aldermen and the Lowndes County supervisors would have to approve it, and it would then be sent to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office for final approval.
Hairston said Lowndes County has taken in juveniles from all over the state into the center, but there have never been guaranteed beds reserved for a specific county or municipality outside Lowndes.
“We take juveniles from other counties now, and we charge a per bed basis to do so, but we don’t have any guarantees for anybody other than Lowndes County kids and city of Columbus kids,” Hairston said.
Both entities are looking into costs for the arrangement. Lowndes County Youth Court Administrator Jason Collins would not disclose in an interview with The Dispatch how much renting out one bed per day is because of the current discussion of this agreement, but he said no other facility in the state charges less than Lowndes County does.
While the responsibility of juvenile detention centers typically falls on counties, Spruill said much of Oktibbeha County’s juvenile crime occurs in the city, and she wants to guarantee beds for Starkville.
Quarles said the most juveniles she has ever had in a juvenile detention center at one time is four. An offense that typically warrants time in a center is one where a juvenile could be a danger to himself or others, such as gun violence.
At the regional meeting in May, Hairston said other counties were interested in potentially renting out beds, such as Clay and Winston. Oktibbeha County District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer and District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller both also expressed interest in wanting to look into renting beds from the facility as well.
Spruill clarified that this center was not a jail but a detention facility that offers educational opportunities and medical care. At a maximum 90-day stay, Spruill said she hopes the Starkville children that would be housed here can learn to stay out of trouble.
“This hopefully will impact some of these kids to say, ‘This is not how we want to live our lives,’” Spruill said.