Lee County sheriff not convinced new supervisor president wants to take action on jail issue

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TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – The new president for the Lee County Board of Supervisors said he wants to get action taken on the current jail, which is outdated and in need of ongoing repairs.

However, the county’s top law enforcement officer said he doesn’t believe the new board president wants to do what it will take to fix the issues with the jail.

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Moments after he was elected president of the Lee County Board of Supervisors earlier this month, Tommy Lee Ivy said deciding whether to build a new jail or renovate the existing one,was a top priority.

“I don’t have nothing against the jail, we need the jail, but we need a good price tag to get a jail, ” said Ivy.

Three years ago, supervisors turned down a proposal to build a new jail and justice center, saying the cost was too high.

Supervisors have looked at the issue many times in recent years.

On Thursday morning, Board President Tommy Lee Ivy toured the Lee County Jail to get another look at the facility that faced overcrowding issues since it opened in the mid-1990s.

Board President Ivy was set to do an interview with us after his tour of the jail, but he cancelled the interview, saying he wants to bring in a consultant to see what the best steps are going forward.

Meantime, Sheriff Jim Johnson said the county and its taxpayers have been down that road before.

“I personally think it is a slap in my face and people of this county, for a supervisor to decide at this point in time it’s time to come down here and look at the jail, we’ve been looking at this for five years, you’ve paid a consultant at least $20,000, toured other jails, drew up plans of what we need and now you think it’s time to come down here and look at the jail is exactly why we’re in the shape that we’re in,” said Sheriff Johnson.

Sheriff Johnson said an assault this past weekend by an inmate on a corrections officer is an example of the need for a new facility.

“We had an individual housed here since October for an armed robbery, had to move him, due to several violations, moved him to the holding cell, and you ended up having two officers in a cell with about 15 or 20 of them, that’s environment we’re in every day, you can tour it all day long, going to be the same problem, not going to get any better,” Johnson said.

Sheriff Johnson said he is not convinced supervisors want to spend any money to solve the ongoing issue.

Sheriff Johnson said the conditions at the jail also make it hard to attract and keep corrections officers and other jail personnel.

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