The Bryan County Jail Trust Authority has been in deep financial trouble and needs about $228,000 to finish the fiscal year that ends June 30. It is estimated that closing the auxiliary jail would cut costs almost in half, and during past meetings officials have indicated a desire to close that jail.
The auxiliary jail, located across from the Durant Police Department, was created to house inmates when remodeling began on the main jail several years ago. It has since been used to handle overcrowding.
Each jail has a capacity of about 62 inmates. Jail populations during the past week have been in the 90s.
During a recent meeting, District No. 1 County Commissioner Dwayne Simpson said it is not fair to put pressure on prosecutors and judges to release inmates who could go on to commit more crimes.
“I think we're wishing,” he said. “I don't think we'll ever get the numbers down to where we can run one jail.”
The jails were cited for several deficiencies during an inspection recently, including not meeting nutritional requirements, not enough clothing and towels and an inadequate number of jailers.
This was the first inspection in about two months and officials felt it was prompted by news reports about possibly closing the auxiliary jail to save money.
“They've made no secret that they don't want us to close that auxiliary jail, so they're coming in here and nitpicking every little thing,” said Assistant Jail Administrator Keith Smith.
District No. 2 Commissioner Tony Simmons said he has talked to State Jail Inspections Director Don Garrison who said he did not have a problem with closing the auxiliary jail so long as the numbers are kept down.
Garrison recently told the Democrat, “My opinion is the same as since when I told them in the beginning and it will not change,” Garrison said. “If they try to close the auxiliary jail and move the prisoners to the main one, it's not going to happen.
“Way back when they started to build (remodel) this jail I told them that it wasn't big enough for what they wanted to do, and now, sure enough, they're running 90 to 100 prisoners who sure won't fit in a 61-bed jail.”
Commissioners also plan to place a jail sales tax before voters in the July 25 primary election.
Jail authority board members will be having another meeting March 20 for planning on how the jail sale tax would be spent. Jail Administrator Delois Phillips will be preparing figures on costs to operate the jails with the required number of jailers, salary increases and increases for other things required to bring the jail up to standards.
Officials also will consider having a portion of the tax go toward a new jail instead of operating two jails which has doubled operating costs. Although more than $2 million dollars has been spent on the two facilities, jail authority board members suggested it is time to take the loss and move on.
“Sometimes you just have to cut bait,” said Jail Authority Member Tom Marcum.
Details on the bank loan or how it will be paid back have not been established. Officials have said they plan to use a portion of the sales tax, if it passes, to pay off the loan, and if it does not pass, the debt could fall back on property owners.
A dollar amount on how much to borrow has not been set. Officials are still planning to meet with banker John Massey.
“We're not going to borrow anymore then we have to,” Simpson said. “We'll have to do a line of credit.”