Lee County sheriff works on goals for upcoming 6th term

Sheriff Jim Johnson has served longer than any other sheriff in the county's history

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – As he prepared to begin his sixth consecutive term, Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said he was grateful for the support of the voters.

“It is humbling and very much appreciated and I don’t take any day for granted. Whether it be election day or one of the years in between, the ability God gives me to serve. And I believe He has placed me here or I wouldn’t be doing it, regardless of what the vote was. It is a ministry, this is my family,” Johnson said.

Johnson oversees approximately 150 employees. Along with enforcing the laws in the county, the sheriff also oversees the day-to-day operations of the Lee County Jail. Getting a new jail, along with a justice complex, including courts, a morgue, and a crime lab is once again the top priority.

“It is more than a lock-up facility. That’s kind of what people look at, as far as a jail. If you watch Andy Griffith, you just need a cell to put Otis in. And Aunt Bea did the cooking. I wish it was that easy. It is an enormous responsibility and task that is placed on the sheriff and staff to operate the jail,” he said.

The Lee County Adult Detention Center has been at capacity for years. In fact, 60 to 65 Lee County inmates are housed at the new jail in Itawamba County. The sheriff is hopeful supervisors will take action soon.

“The building is in such disarray. Some things can’t be repaired. We’re patching the Titanic, but the Titanic is continuing to sink,” Johnson said.

Johnson said another pressing problem is how to better deal with inmates who have mental health issues. It is a problem facing all law enforcement.

“The time we have them here, we’re not able to supply that help that is needed in order for them to be placed back out in society. We are making it worse, that is an issue we deal with. Our training, a lot of training has gone from officer survival, how to shoot and protect yours,” Johnson said.

The sheriff said despite the challenges, he looks forward to the next four years.

“When people went to the polls, to vote, I tried to let our staff know, this was not just a vote for me, this is a vote for the job you do and what you represent,” he said.

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