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Lee County Supervisors discuss future of jail

Reported by: Robert Byers
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Updated: 5/06/2013 12:15 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - Lee County Supervisors heard a presentation Monday morning from Mike LeBlanc, who is with the Louisiana-based MWL Architects.

His company also was involved with the recently built Alcorn County justice facility.

LeBlanc says for a new jail with 600 beds, the cost would run around $19 million.

Supervisors might also add on to the existing facility and say they're looking at that option.

LeBlanc said, "A jail does not have to have a bunch of bells and whistles. It needs to be plain, simple, easy to operate and cost effective. Those are the kinds of things that I think taxpayers would be interested in."

Whether supervisors decide on a new jail or updates to the current one, the federal government says the overcrowded conditions at the current 200 bed facility can't continue.

The sheriff says the prisoner overcrowding is just half the problem in a facility he says was not built for growth.

Sheriff Jim Johnson said, "Our administration part is outgrown and outdated. We've got to add on to that. The county and sheriff are responsible for housing mental patients until
they can find some temporary homing. If we can take the current facility and meet our needs we certainly want to do that. If not, we need to look at other options."

The county has been in talks with the city of Tupelo on a possible joint jail.

Leaders say they will continue to explore the best path to take in order to update or replace this almost 20 year old jail.

Supervisor Bobby Smith said, "There's a lot of things we've got to look at from the standpoint of locations. I like the idea of a venture between city and county. At this point we're apart on that because of agreements on who will pay what. I don't know if that will ever come to fruition or not. But, with all that being said, we've got to have a new jail."

Smith says it will likely be at least a year before any decision is made.
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