Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2007

Time to carefully consider expansion of Panola County jail

Steady as she goes

Panola supervisors will discuss adding beds to the existing county jail at the David M. Bryan Justice Complex at Monday’s meeting in Sardis.

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A proposal was set forth before four of five supervisors in what appeared to be an illegal meeting when more than a quorum was present and county business was discussed.

Despite the setting, there was a sense of urgency as it is an acknowledged fact that Panola County needs more jail space than the current facility  opened in 1996 provides.

But that sense of urgency doesn’t need to translate into a knee jerk reaction to add additional space without being prudent in what is needed and what Panola County can afford.

As early as 1989 a $3.5 million proposed jail was discussed. It was pared downward to a $2.85 million facility which was defeated in a county-wide bond issue referendum in June of that same year.

In 1994 the late Panola County Sheriff David M. Bryan proposed another attempt to build a new jail and, working with the board of supervisors and a citizens committee, came through with the lease-purchase plan to build the $2.9 million facility that the designers say looks as good today as it did when it was opened.

A 40×100’ auxiliary building was built with state inmate labor and holds 30 of approximately 50 state inmates at the facility.

The rationale used in the proposal used percentages of existing county felony indictments and outstanding warrants.  Although the numbers were not picked from the sky, other areas such as female housing (the current facility was designed for eight with 12 currently incarcerated and female crime on the rise) and municipal misdemeanors, which were not included in the rationale.

Lawbreakers need to know that we have a place to put them. We need to be prudent with providing that place.