Forrest County Jail bills thousands in overtime - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Forrest County Jail bills thousands in overtime

Forrest County Jail/Photo credit: WDAM Forrest County Jail/Photo credit: WDAM
FORREST COUNTY (WDAM) -

Forrest County Supervisors started building their budget looking to save money after being involved in multiple legal settlements in 2016.

An area of concern centered on the Forrest County Jail, which only has 89 employees and managed to rack up 18,120 hours of overtime in just 18 months.

“Let me first say that the board, while working through the budget this year was looking at areas where we may could save money, and we did find where there was a good bit of overtime being paid down at the jail facility,” Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said. 

In 2015, the Forrest County Jail paid $204,434.58 in overtime.

In 2016, the first six months of the year, they have paid $124,504.55 in overtime, and are well on track to surpass the previous year’s total.

Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee does not think that is excessive.

“It’s not excessive if I have to go to federal court and justify why somebody was mistreated or beat up or killed in the Forrest County Jail and the guard didn’t have the proper number people in the right places and allowed that to happen,” Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said. 

Despite the jail having 89 employees, Forrest County supervisor Chris Bowen said the board would like to hire more people.

“Well, we would love to hire more people at the jail, and our sheriff does bring in lots of new hires on a regular basis and many of them wash out, so we are always constantly trying to solidify our staff at the jail,” Bowen said. “It’s like I have told many people that have asked me for jobs over the years, we are always hiring on weekends and nights at the jail and it just doesn’t seem like we get a lot of takers, so those go-getters that we do have, a lot of times they will be taking those extra shifts when somebody magically calls in sick.”

Comparing Forrest County Jail to other facilities:

Forrest County:

1-1-2015 to 6-30-2016:

Total number of employees- 89

Total number of inmates- 350 to 400

Total number of overtime – 18,120 hours

Total pay for overtime - $204,434.58 (2015)

Total pay for overtime - $124,069.97 (first 6 months of 2016)

Jones County:

2015:

Total number of employees- 48

Total number of inmates- average adult inmates, 180 to 200, juveniles average 10 daily

Total number of overtime – 313 hours

Total pay for overtime - $5,875.50

2016:

January –September

Total number of employees- 48

Total number of inmates- average adult inmates, 180 to 200, juveniles average 10 daily

Total number of overtime – 1,205 hours

Total pay for overtime - $22,880.48

Lamar County:

10-1-15 to 9-15-16:

Total number of employees- 32

Total number of inmates- 100-115

Total number of overtime – 1,174.5 hours

Total pay for overtime - $27,518.02

“It’s difficult to compare Forrest County to other counties, to surrounding counties because we have three facilities, we are federally certified and we are considered a regional jail,” Hogan said. “All of the other counties surrounding us often times use our facility to hold their overcrowded inmates or their otherwise unruly, unruly inmates and so we are considered the only regional jail in this area, I think Harrison County is the next closest regional jail to us.”

WDAM 7 News requested the same information from Harrison County to see how their numbers compared to Forrest County.

Harrison County:

2015:

Total number of employees- 89

Total number of inmates- 750

Total number of overtime – average 500-600 hours a year

Total pay for overtime – averages $10,000

Hogan was correct, Harrison County is a larger regional jail and their numbers do not compare to Forrest County’s.

Harrison County, like Forrest County also has 89 employees, however they only spend roughly $10,000 a year on overtime.

Some Forrest County Jail employees racked up more overtime by themselves than the entire Harrison County Jail in one year, and records show some jail employees working close to 80 hours a week.

WDAM 7 News asked Sheriff McGee: Is that safe?

“Probably not, a lot of times its not, but somebody’s at that position working,” McGee said. 

Hogan said supervisors have met with sheriff’s department officials in efforts to solve the issue.

“We made the proper sheriff employees aware of that and asked them to take a look at that and see if there isn’t something that could be done differently to better control the amount of overtime,” Hogan said. 

Sheriff McGee said he is not planning on doing anything about it when it comes to the overtime spending.

“I’m not going to do anything to curb overtime because I can’t justify it when I go to federal court,” McGee said. “If they cut the compensation for the employees the employee won’t be at work and we’ll answer to the judge when that happens, I am required to fill the positions and until the money is not there or the position is abolished, it’ll be filled.”

McGee claims the overtime is all because of the new jail facility, which moved to its current location from downtown Hattiesburg in 2012.

“Yeah this facility is so much bigger and arranged differently, two floors on the other facility and we’ve got…this facility is built for 660 inmates…so whether there are two in the cell, or there are 22 in the cell you have to have a guard there,” McGee said. “So you can’t even compare the two facilities as far as manpower is concerned because we had to increase it when we moved out here, so it’s been much greater than it was downtown since the day we moved in it.”

Hogan said, “As far as I know at this point, the sheriff did stay within his budget guidelines for this, for fiscal year 2016, but as I said when we were working on the budget for 2017 we looked for areas for where we may could save some money and we did bring that to sheriff personnel attention that maybe perhaps we could do a better job of controlling that overtime expenditure." 

According to county officials, the sheriff’s budget makes up 42 percent of the overall budget, costing roughly $13 million.

McGee also added that Harrison County does not run a juvenile detention center, and that he was unaware if they have an annex.

Forrest County records also show that when it comes to sheriff’s department, the jail employees are the only ones who receive overtime, while deputies on patrol shifts do not.

“You can’t solve the overtime issue unless you either hire more people or you don’t fill the slots when the people don’t show up for work,” McGee said. 

According to supervisors, in efforts to save the county money, they are monitoring the pay at the jail for each pay period.

Breaking down the overtime numbers for 2015-2016:

Bourn – 810.50

Brown – 456.50

Collins – 602.25

Fairley – 456.00

Lymon – 448.00

Moye – 517.25

Preston – 479.25

Smith Jr. – 1050.25

Walker – 740.00

Waller - 1370.50

Woodard – 690.25

Ten other employees of the 89 all have over 300 hours of overtime.

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