Guard shortage at state prison turns into revenue for some regional jails, wardens say

A prison guard shortage in Leaksville and the need to move out 400 state inmates has proved to be beneficial for regional jails in Wiggins and Lucedale, wardens say.

The two correctional facilities are among corrections facilities around the state that will see a revenue increase for housing state inmates. Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall announced the move Oct. 27, saying the starting annual pay of just under $25,000 a year for a prison guard is not enough to attract people to work in a job that can be dangerous.

It means tens of thousands of dollars in extra revenue a year for the Stone County Regional Correctional Facility and the George/Greene County Regional Correctional Facility.

The regional jails were created by legislative approval and an agreement by two or more jurisdictions to share in the building and maintenance costs. They function as a county jail and as a prison.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections is paying the regional jails $29.74 per day to house the first 200 state inmates, and $20 per day for each additional inmate.

“It’s really going to help us,” said Bobby Fairley, the warden in Lucedale.

“We’ve received 30 inmates and hope to get another 30 to 32 for a total of 62,” Fairley said.

“Just the extra revenue will help since we’ve been in such a tight budget and we’ve had some cutbacks. This will help us get on the positive side. It will help us put some more people on staff, put more people to work.”

“I said, thank you, MDOC.”

Fairley said he’s received approval to hire four more corrections officers and one more full-time nurse.

The George/Greene County facility can house up to 280 state inmates. The housing has to be handled carefully, Fairley said. MDOC doesn’t allow state prisoners housed in the same zones as county inmates.

‘Working pretty good’

Warden Dwain Brewer at Stone County also considers it helpful. He said he can house up to 303 state inmates.

His facility gets paid $25 a day for inmates held for Wiggins police, $20 a day for Stone County prisoners and $50 a day for federal detainees. He had 45 federal prisoners last week.

Brewer said he has not needed to increase his staff.

“Everything’s working pretty good right now,” he said.

“I told the board that if someone calls in sick, I may have to call someone in and pay them overtime.”

The Stone County jail was at risk of closing a little more than a year ago, when MDOC reduced the number of state inmates at regional jails to 200. It was a loss of $73,000 a month until MDOC raised the number.

Moving state inmates can also benefit the inmates.

“Prisoners who are from those areas can always request transfers to be moved closer to home when possible,” MDOC spokeswoman Grace Fisher said.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews