Progress at the new Itawamba County Jail is right on schedule and within budget to boot.
Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson invited The Times to tour the new jail site on Access Road last week. During this visit, the Sheriff discussed some of the steps they have taken to address the problems that led to the building of this new facility in the first place. Some of the plans they have are aimed at addressing the rate of recidivism in Itawamba County.
During the initial planning phases, Dickinson, along with Itawamba County Jail Administrator Vicky Russell, cited overcrowding as the leading concern on a long list of reasons why a new jail was a necessity.
Dickinson told The Times in 2017, “Not only are we catching new criminals, but we’re catching the same old criminals. It clogs the system up,” Dickinson said. “Most of our offenders who are over there right now are repeat offenders.”
In addition to excessive fighting and issues with inmates attempting to smuggle in contraband items, overcrowding is also an expensive problem.
In order to accommodate the overflow, prisoners are sent to Tishomingo County Jail at a cost of $25 per day. According to county officials, Itawamba spends between $10,000 and $15,000 each month housing prisoners in Tishomingo County.
According to a report released by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), there is a direct correlation between the ability of an ex-offender to obtain “consistent and quality employment” and the rate of recidivism for all ex-offenders.
The report detailed a project led by NIC in which NIC provided offender workforce development specialist (OWDS) training to a select number of participants from the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) from 2004-2006. Services provided through offender workforce development included comprehensive pre-employment preparation, job-retention planning, and post-release case management
Dickinson told The Times that the Sheriff’s Department has partnered with the Fulton Family Resource Center and Itawamba Community College to provide adult basic education classes as well as other enrichment programs for the inmates housed at their $10.875 million dollar facility.
“If we can help people, it’s very important that we do that,” said Dickinson. “If they’re in jail because they are on a dead-end road, we want to be a detour for the good.”
Buddy Collins of the Fulton Family Resource Center (FFRC) spoke with The Times about the details of that partnership. Collins said that the FFRC works with ICC to provide high school equivalency test training, parenting conflict resolution, and fatherhood classes which would all be offered at the new jail site. Beyond that, classes will be determined closer to opening when needs could be more accurately assessed.
In addition to overcrowding, the current jail, located between Fulton City Hall and Itawamba County Pratt Memorial Library, is in a serious state of disrepair. The oldest portions of the jail have been in use for over seventy years.
The updated facility will have space to house 154 total inmates with a total of four outdoor recreation areas. The structure is designed to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour.
Upon arrival, vehicles transporting offenders will enter a sally port where they can safely transfer the inmate from the vehicle into the jail. Once inside, there is a space designated for a booking area, as well as holding cells meant for those . Next are the administrative offices, conference rooms, and a communal eating area. The second floor is designed with an area in the center surrounded by windows where officials can look out over each area on the ground floor. Lastly, what Dickinson called the “nucleus” of the facility, a large room with pipes, cords, and wires of every color running up and down the walls provided power to all 21,750-square-feet of the jail.
Dickinson told The Times they aim to keep a “people first” attitude at the Itawamba County Jail and “that means inmates.”