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Adams County board discuss jail problems and costly solutions
from Staff Reports - NEWS
March 7, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The costs of construction continue to deter Adams County supervisors from moving forward on building a multimillion-dollar jail to replace one that most acknowledge is defective, dangerous and outdated.

“I’m going to do everything I can to keep from raising taxes, but I’m also going to do everything I can to get you a new jail,” county board President Mike Lazarus told Sheriff Travis Patten on Monday.

Patten and the Adams County Board of Supervisors discussed the various structural and security deficiencies at the 42-year-old jail that the sheriff said is imperiling jail inmates, sheriff’s office employees – and the public.

“It’s a problem you’re going to have to face,” said Patten, who oversees the jail that can hold about 80 or more inmates. “When you have lives at stake, you have to be responsible.”

County supervisors for more than four years have been agonizing over a problem-plagued jail that exposes the county to lawsuits for its substandard conditions. They even considered closing it and moving inmates elsewhere.

Piecemeal structural repairs have been made, but much more is needed. “I’d rather deal with something upfront than being sued later,” Patten said.

Built in 1975, the jail’s various structural problems in recent years have included a leaky roof, mold, poor ventilation, crumbling exterior bricks and malfunctioning cell locks.

While the court-ordered jail repairs were made, Patten said it’s not cost-effective to keep patching up a building that’s become so obsolete and old.

A $7 million cost estimate was made in 2014 for constructing a new Adams County detention center.

District 2 Supervisor David Carter noted Monday that the county is facing other expenses, such as much-needed road repairs and an expanded recreation program. “Eventually, we need to prioritize on what we’ve got to do. … They’re all long-term issues,” Carter said.

Lazarus said Adams County and Natchez – like being done for recreation -- could consolidate its law-enforcement agencies and money for the sheriff to be in charge of a new city-county jail.

If a new jail is built, the county will be burdened with finding a new use for the old jail property. “You can’t just say ‘Build a new jail’ and walk away from that (old jail),” Lazarus said. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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