By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
A proposed bill may allow Alcorn County to house inmates from other states to bring in more revenue to help pay off the regional correctional facility and other buildings.
State Sen. Rita Potts Parks, R-Corinth, said she will author a bill to allow Alcorn County to “solicit out-of-state prisoners” to fill space at the jail.
State Rep. Nick Bain, D-Corinth, also plans to sponsor a similar bill in the House to let Alcorn County contract with others states or the federal government to house inmates at the correctional facility to help meet revenue needs.
There is a significant amount of excess space at the Alcorn County Regional Correctional Facility.
There is capacity for about 360 inmates at the jail. But the Mississippi Department of Corrections only provides the minimum 240 inmates allowed under the contract with the county, officials say.
The state reduced the number of inmates at county regional jails due to state budget constraints, according to the MDOC.
Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell said he thinks another 120 inmates could be housed at the jail with basically the same amount of staff that it takes to house 240.
“That’s why we’re looking into this,” the sheriff said.
The money that came from housing the additional inmates could go toward paying down debt obligations for buildings at the county justice center, Caldwell said.
“We’re looking to do anything we can to make sure this place funds itself,” Caldwell said.
However, the county does not want to jump into an agreement without a full understanding, he noted.
The bill Potts plans to sponsor will be modeled after a bill that was passed for another county several years ago.
“It will authorize them (Alcorn County) to reach outside of the state boundaries,” Potts said.
She thinks there is a good chance the bill will pass.
“It will allow them to get to their capacity of which they need to be able to be profitable,” Potts said.
The current number of inmates that the state provides the county does not provide enough revenue to break even, Potts added.
“It’s costing the county,” she said.
The state pays the county $29.74 per inmate, per day, Caldwell noted.
The board of supervisors on Monday passed a resolution in support of a bill to allow the county to house inmates from other states, the federal government and private entities.
The county has significant debt on the correctional facility and other buildings at the justice complex, officials say. More money is needed to replace the revenue stream that was lost when the state reduced the number of inmates housed at the correctional facility, the resolution adds.
Contracting with other entities to house minimum or medium security offenders could reduce or relieve funding shortfalls, according to the county.