TUPELO -- When 13 women were arrested for prostitution in Tupelo last weekend, the Lee County Jail had to act quickly to move temporary bedding into the women's detention area and create new spaces where female inmates could be housed.
When the jail was built in 1997, there was a very small need for female inmate beds but due to a rise in female prison populations beginning in the early 2000s, the women's dormitory has stayed mostly full and large influxes force jail staff to get creative. Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said there has been a 50 percent increase in his administration compared to previous administrations, "and you can't stretch concrete."
The rise is not just in Lee County. Local, state and national detention facilities have seen larger female populations in recent years.
The number of incarcerated women in Mississippi prisons has grown by a third since 2001 and at one point, in 2008, had grown by 44 percent with a peak of 2,538 women incarcerated in Mississippi prisons, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.