Lt. Gov. Hosemann urges city, county to move on misdemeanor holding facility
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Hinds County leaders say they’d like to have the downtown jail transferred to the city of Jackson by the end of summer.
However, it’s likely too late to get state funding for any renovations for it until next year.
The state proposed setting aside approximately $800,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help repair the facility during the 2022 legislative session.
However, no funds were appropriated because the jail’s ownership was still in limbo.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann didn’t rule out helping the city with improvements at the facility next year but wondered whether Jackson and the county should wait that long to get the facility at the corner of S. President and Tombigbee streets ready to hold detainees.
“When we come back in January, all offers are on the table. The issue is, are you going to wait until January to do your jail? That’s an issue, I think we don’t have to look any further than the fairgrounds last weekend,” he said.
Hosemann was referring to the shooting that occurred at the second Mississippi Mudbug Festival on the night of April 1. One person was killed and eight others were injured during the incident.
The following weekend in the capital city proved to be even more deadly, with six homicides and suicide reported, according to police reports.
“Whatever decisions are made by the board of supervisors and the city council and the mayor shouldn’t wait until next January,” he said.
City leaders have pushed the idea of a temporary misdemeanor holding facility as part of its solution to address the rising crime.
Jackson hasn’t had a place to lock up misdemeanor offenders for years, and, as a result, has had to release thousands of offenders on their own recognizance.
Jackson Police Chief James Davis said that fact has likely contributed to Jackson’s rising crime rate.
Davis was hopeful during a November press conference, though, when he stood alongside the interim Hinds County sheriff and Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun to announce that the former downtown jail would be reopened as a 72-hour holding facility.
“As you know, since March of last year, the city of Jackson has not had a misdemeanor holding facility. You also know that we have field-released almost 3,300 individuals that should have gone to jail,” he said at the time. “I want to send a message out to the citizens that once we make the necessary repairs to this facility, that you will no longer be field-released in the city of Jackson. You will no longer terrorize the city of Jackson. You will no longer tell our officers that they don’t have (anywhere) to house you.”
Months later, the former jail is still closed, as the city and county hammer out plans to reopen it.
For its part, the county wants to transfer ownership to Jackson, saying it likely could not reopen it under terms of its federal jail consent decree.
Court-appointed monitors previously ordered the downtown jail closed because it wasn’t “conducive for long-term detainees” to be housed, Board of Supervisors Attorney Tony Gaylor explained.
However, the county and the city believe it could be opened to house offenders for up to 72 hours, as a sort of “cooling off” period.
Gaylor said in late April that officials were still working out details of the transfer, including who would pay for the facility’s renovations and who would staff it.
Hosemann said an assessment of the facility showed that it would cost about $800,000 to renovate, with approximately 27 cells that could be used now.
“We began a conversation on things that could be done to accelerate the Capitol Police supplementing the city of Jackson’s police department, which has been understaffed, as you know, from listening to the chief,” he said. “And the chief informed me that we did not have a holding jail here in Jackson. I was quite surprised, actually.”
“And so I called the Board of Supervisors. I spoke to a member of the Board of Supervisors, we had our appraisal done, of how much you would get to get it open and not, I’ve checked on that as recently as yesterday,” he said.
He worked to get the money set aside during the session. However, funds were not allocated because it was unclear who would own the facility.
Meanwhile, Hosemann said the state doesn’t typically pay for jails, but was interested in helping Jackson, in part, because it is the capital city.
“We have significant state assets here, the State Fairgrounds and State Capitol, MDOT. You look around and there are a lot of state assets here,” he said. " I have a personal interest. I’ve been quite upfront about that. My children live here. My grandchildren live here. So, we have a personal interest in making sure that Jackson’s a safe city. Yeah, I have a personal interest in that.”
Equally important, Hosemann said it’s about Jackson’s other residents as well. “We want our moms and dads to be able to go to the park. We want our moms and dads to be able to go to the grocery store or go to the fairgrounds without being threatened. So that’s part of what I think us we in government ought to be doing.”
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