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Private firm to address jail's financial, safety problems

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Updated: 12/02/2013 11:46 pm
CORINTH, Miss. (WTVA) -- Recent events have ushered in a change at the Alcorn County Regional Correctional Facility: a private firm brought in to manage the facility and improve safety conditions there.

The change comes in the wake of last month's revelation that Alcorn County Sheriff Charles Rinehart broke the law by authorizing weekend passes for state inmates at the facility.

State corrections officials say he did it for at least a year.

Now the sheriff will no longer be in charge of the facility.

"He will still be in an advisory capacity, but at the same time he will not be directly managing the facility, and that will take some of the pressure off of him as far as management is concerned," District 1 Supervisor Lowell Hinton said.

Rinehart's unlawful activity is one of several events that led to a Monday morning decision during the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors' meeting.

"By bringing in a professional management team out there, this will alleviate both the safety and financial situations that we have inside that facility," Hinton said.

That decision was not made by the supervisors, but by the sheriff and Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps.

Mississippi Correctional Management, Inc., will operate and manage the facility for the next two years.

Hinton said residents in the county have been vocal about safety concerns in part because of an escape last year involving two state inmates.

However, the facility's full financial picture hasn't really been revealed until now.

In a copy of the 2013 monthly budget for the Alcorn County Regional Correctional Facility -- obtained by WTVA News -- figures indicate from January to October, the facility has already lost more than $237,000.

Hinton said supervisors don't set the budget; that's left up to Rinehart and Epps, which makes criticism for the facility's financial woes frustrating because those who live in the county may not know that.

That loss could also get worse with the state pulling some of its inmates out due to safety concerns.

How much money would that mean for the county?

The state pays the facility $29.73 per day for each inmate. With a minimum of 240 state inmates currently housed inside the county jail, that translates into $214,056 to help pay the facility's finances.

Broken down, that's $891.90 a month per inmate the state would no longer pay.

"I think we were put in a position where we knew we had to make some changes," Hinton said.

Hinton said the facility should start receiving more state inmates by next week with the new team in place.

Going forward, he added this was the only way to rescue the facility, which has been losing money nearly every month since it opened two years ago.

WTVA News reached out to Rinehart and Warden Doug Mullins, but neither returned calls for comment on the matter.
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