LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – Sheriff Mike Arledge said the Lowndes County jail is currently holding the lowest number of inmates he’s seen in his eight years in office.
Arledge said he believes there are many factors behind the decrease in population, but even though he has more empty beds right now, he knows that can change at any time.
“Our jail facility can hold 288. We’ve been averaging the last, probably, 10 to 12 years, around 250. In the last year or two, we got down to about 200 and then lately, I’ve checked it and we are running around 165.”
Arledge said he believes several things are playing a role in the smaller number.
“Some of the different legislation that we have had, like House Bill 585, which made a lot of felonies, misdemeanors, now. It’s got some good points to it and it’s got some bad points to it, but as far as the people that we are keeping long periods of time, we’re not seeing that now.”
Sheriff Arledge is also seeing a positive trend, fewer repeat offenders.
Executive Director of Parole to Pride Sharon Jones believes organizations like hers are helping with that.
“The goal of Parole to Pride is to give those that have re-entered back into society with a challenged background, is what I say, but to reduce recidivism is to give them an opportunity for employment.”
She believes that opportunity alone can make a big difference.
“Give them hope and also it gives them an opportunity, especially if it’s for employment and it actually gives them their money in their hand that they can pay their restitution, probation fees.”
The sheriff said the Mississippi Department of Corrections is also helping keep the numbers down at the county level, because officers are coming to pick up state inmates more quickly.
“We’re a jail. We are not a prison. We are holding them temporarily and anytime you have them released a lot earlier, then you’re going to have a smaller number.”
He said having a smaller population usually means fewer problems and more flexibility.
“The way our facility is set up and the different pods, we can change some people around and put them in some different areas since we have more room. That gives us a chance to go in and do some painting and maintenance that we normally wouldn’t have.”
Jones says 85% of Parole to Pride participants stay on the right path and are doing well.