Old jail renovations underway to move court support services

Old jail renovations underway to move court support services

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The old Forrest County Jail is coming back to life after being vacant for three years in downtown Hattiesburg.

The jail is undergoing renovations to house the community corrections offices, which will be moved from the county courthouse across the street to free up room for a new circuit judge coming in January.

"We're going to move all of the drug court, the veterans court and the probation officers in our lab over in this building," Judge Bob Helfrich said.

Helfrich's caseload will be freed up with the additional judge, who will be chosen in an election Nov. 3 between candidates Charles Lawrence, Chad Shook and Jon Mark Weathers. The new judge, who will serve alongside Helfrich in Forrest and Perry Counties in the 12 District Circuit Court, will be housed at the courthouse.

Helfrich said there would be two courtrooms in the courthouse, and it is undecided if courtrooms will be placed at the old jail.

"If we do hold court over here (jail), we're going to have to break it up and have more courts because there's just too many people to be over here right now," Helfrich said.

Half of the first floor and all of the second floor will be used at the old jail. The second floor will be reserved for the public defender.

"There's plenty of space that we can develop new programs and put everybody here in one spot," Helfrich said, noting that he hoped to have the Department of Corrections also housed in the old jail, including their probation and parole offices. That department is currently located at the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg and commutes downtown to conduct business at the courthouse.

Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said the renovations will cost approximately $200,000 and are slated to be ready by January.