No relief for jail crowding

Overcrowding in the Forrest County jail has lead to the facility being disapproved to house state trustee inmates. Within 30 days those inmates will be transported to another location. But that won't alleviate the crowded conditions.

There are currently 213 inmates in the jail.

"We're not in compliance with the Gates vs Collier decision where the federal judge said that our population could not exceed 155," says Sheriff Billy McGee.

So within 30 days a facility designed to house 24 state trustees will be empty. Ideally, some county inmates could be moved into the dormitory-style building to alleviate crowded conditions in the jail, but McGee says that's not possible.

"You can't put pre-trial inmates... in an open dormitory setting because you don't have enough security to do that."

So the overcrowded jail gets no relief.

Meanwhile, McGee says the county will eventually have to hire civilian employees to do work currently done by the soon-to-be-gone state trustees.

"The state inmates will have to be moved from the work center, the work center will have to be closed because they don't have that status of worker to go in there, and the jail population will remain the same, if not worse," he says.

Officials say overpopulated jails are a problem across the state.

"I think the county's gonna have to do the same thing the state is fixing to have to do, and that's build larger facilities," McGee says.

He says Forrest County supervisors are interested in supporting a new jail, but officials haven't been unable to secure a possible location.