Epps: State inmates won’t return

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Eppssaid Monday the agency’s investigation of the Lincoln County Jailis complete and state inmates will not be returning to the countylockup.

The commissioner said state inmates would not be housed in thejail as long as its supervision was conducted by the sheriff. Eppshas ordered all state inmates removed from the county jail and itsauthority to house state inmates expires Aug. 12.

“I’m comfortable we’ve looked at everything we possibly could,”said Epps, who later suggested state inmates could be allowed toreturn if jail supervision were privatized.

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The commissioner has alleged the sheriff’s department issuedpasses to unclassified inmates.

Sheriff Wiley Calcote admitted Friday there was “some merit” tothe accusations. He said an internal investigation had revealedthat an employee – who is no longer employed with the department -had issued passes in May, June and July to unclassifiedinmates.

Epps did not dispute the results of Calcote’s investigation.However, he said the sheriff is the ultimate authority in hisdepartment and he cannot delegate responsibility.

“Our investigation did not say who – only that some inmates wereallowed (out) on passes and some were unclassified,” thecommissioner said.

Calcote was unavailable for comment following the commissioner’sstatements.

Epps said he will not issue a new order to allow state inmatesto be housed at the jail when the present order expires in severaldays.

“I’m just not going to fool with that jail. I’m not going tohouse inmates down there,” he said. “The order will stand as longas he’s over the jail.”

The decision, Epps said, will impact the county in three ways:the jail will lose money in its budget from the reimbursement ofthe state for housing MDOC inmates, it will end work crewsutilizing state inmates and, once a person is convicted, the statewill have 30 days to remove the inmate from the jail.

However, the commissioner said he would reconsider the order ifsupervision of the jail were given to someone else.

“You can contract that jail out,” Epps said. “A lot of jails arerun by a private group.”

Epps also responded to a written statement by Calcote thatindicated the sheriff’s present troubles were politically motivatedby local opponents with “friends in high places.”

“I don’t know nothing about that,” Epps said. “If the sheriffwould follow the law and the procedures of MDOC, I wouldn’t evenhave need to communicate with him.”