Work release program in limbo in Lee County

LEE COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI)- The expansion of a work-release program allows up to 25 Lee County Jail inmates to work and make money under certain conditions but hurdles standing in the way are preventing those inmates from taking advantage of the program.

Governor Reeves’ Signature to House Bill 586 gives Lee County, Harrison County, and Rankin County inmates who are non-violent offenders the opportunity to find work if they’re in the last year of their sentence but Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson says those qualifications are the exact reasons why he is unable to capitalize on the opportunity.

The Sheriff believes a new jail facility would solve those issues.

“We would be able to hold state prisoners and if they got sentenced in Lee County or if they got sentenced anywhere else, we could either run a restitution center here and they would be able to serve their entire sentence here which would be part of this last year which is in this particular bill,” said Sheriff Johnson.

WCBI asked District 6, Senator Chad Mcmahan, if he was aware of Sheriff Johnson’s concerns before supporting the bill on the floor.

“Well, I don’t know if that’s completely accurate,” said Sen. Mcmahan. “The sheriff and I are supposed to get together in the next week and go over this program together and I do believe he will have some prisoners that will qualify. It’s What he thinks is important to me and that’s why I want to sit down and go over the legislation together.”

While Senator Chad Mcmahan is confident this program can immediately be of service to his district, Sheriff Johnson doesn’t share his optimism.

WCBI asked Sheriff Johnson if he has at least one inmate who qualifies for the program.

“Not here at this facility,” said Sheriff Johnson.

If a new jail is needed, Lee County has at least one member of the board of supervisors who is all-in on a new facility, Wesley Webb.

“We’ve got to have a jail. I’m going to vote for the jail. Our issues are we’ve got to come up with how we’re going to pay for it,” said District 3 Supervisor Webb.

The majority of the Lee County Board of Supervisors voted no to a new facility the last three times it was on the agenda.

Webb says the appropriate price tag would be around $45 million dollars.


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