New jail planned for Jackson would replace ailing Raymond Detention Center, county leaders say

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 7:04 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A new jail could be a major step in having a federal consent decree lifted, according to Hinds County leaders speaking at a press conference Tuesday.

County officials announced plans to build a new detention center at a news conference at the Hinds County Chancery Court building downtown.

The announcement comes as a federal judge mulls whether the county’s current jail, the Raymond Detention Center, should be put into receivership and after a week after arguments wrapped in an evidentiary hearing regarding the matter.

Supervisor Credell Calhoun and Sheriff Tyree Jones made the announcement, flanked by an artist rendering of what the new facility would look like.

“It’s no secret some of the woes and some of the issues we’re currently facing at the Raymond Detention Center,” Jones said. “Building a new detention facility is a very important key as it relates to the situation that we are currently under.”

“It shows that we are dedicated to the citizens of Hinds County regarding the safety of citizens and the safety of the detainees.”

The jail would be located on McDowell Road in Jackson and would replace the embattled RDC. The facility would be located on 16th-section land owned by Jackson Public Schools.

RDC has been under a federal consent decree since 2016. Late last year, after failing to bring the jail into compliance with decree terms, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves held the county in civil contempt and issued a show-cause order requiring the county to tell him why the jail should not be taken over.

A two-week evidentiary hearing was held in February and early March, where the county and the feds argued their case.

Attorneys with the Department of Justice are urging the courts to take over the jail, citing the county’s noncompliance.

The county argues the decree has been in place too long and is too broad for the county to achieve the sought-after compliance.

Part of the county’s problems stems from the poor construction of the roughly 600-bed Raymond facility, which opened in 1994.

“We’ve poured money into it, over $4 million, and we’re still having serious problems,” Calhoun said. “We wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to get out from under the consent decree, and the way the board thought that we could (do that) is by building a new facility.”

The new jail would be constructed in phases. Detainees from Raymond would be transferred to the facility as phases open and staffers are put in place.

The first phase would house between 180 and 200 detainees, Jones said. Construction of the first phase will take between 18 and 24 months.

“We’ve been in office a little over two years... We were shut down for about six months of that time... and we still are very close to breaking ground,” Calhoun said. “We have been really on a breakneck pace to get this facility up.”

Jones said the county also should have no problems staffing the facility, saying the county has already approved a pay increase and is looking to implement a pay plan and other incentives to increase detention staffing.

“Not only will you have an increase in staff, you will have a better security even... in Raymond right now,” Jones said.

Monitors put in place to oversee the implementation of the consent decree told the court that in January, staffing at the jail was at a historic low, with just 191 detention workers.

The jail will operate as a “direct supervision” facility, meaning that detention officers will be stationed in housing units and watching inmates at all times.

Calhoun said the funding for the first phase is in place, telling WLBT that it will be paid for, in part, by a small millage increase. “Just like anything, you know, you have to get it from the taxpayers,” he said.

He did not say how much that increase would be.

The county is also getting help with the construction of water and sewer infrastructure from the state, including the construction of a new water tower which will also benefit homes and businesses in south Jackson, County Administrator Kenny Wayne Jones said during testimony in federal court.

“And we will be working to come up with additional funds and other sources to do the other phases,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun said the county worked with DOJ on the new plans and has been in communication with federal officials on the plans for about a year.

The county plans to move forward with those plans even if RDC is taken over.

“They’ve been looking at our plans and making suggestions to our plans,” Calhoun said. “We’re working with them hand-in-hand on the new facility and we want to make sure it’s... safe for our detainees. That’s what it’s all about.”

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Copyright 2022 WLBT. All rights reserved.