Inmates shown who runs jail

Published 11:42 pm Saturday, February 9, 2008

Pearl River County’s new sheriff is showing inmates at the county jail who’s really in charge with a full contraband search.

Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison called in the Emergency Response Team from the South Mississippi Corrections Institution to show inmates that he is in control of the jail, not the inmates.

A comment made by inmates after television privileges were removed in a block was one reason Allison called in the agency.

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Emergency Response Team Commander Joe Errington and his team of about three dogs and 30 people searched the jail and it’s residents for contraband such as cell phones, controlled substances and weapons. Errington said his team was called in by Allison about a week ago because of the suspicion that there was a number of such items in inmates’ possession.

“Just a routine contraband search is what we’re doing,” Errington said.

Any illegal items the inmates were not supposed to have were confiscated and felony charges were pressed, which will add time to the inmates term, Allison said.

ERT provides the service free of charge, yet they have never been to Pearl River County’s new jail.

“This is the first time our team has been to this facility,” Errington said.

All a law enforcement agency has to do is request the service and ERT will respond, bringing with the team its specialized search training.

“We do this on a regular basis and we know how to do it,” Errington said.

Allison said the search lasted from about 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. Thursday night. In the search nine cell phones, four drug possessions including marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine and one paraphernalia possession were found in the jail. Individuals found with contraband at the jail include, Adam Pena, Steven Thames, Michael Wallace, Leon Rankin, Jeremy Hill, Thomas Davis, Joseph Holloway and Robert Smith. Individuals found with a controlled substance were Edmond Brown, David Gladney, William Davis and Michael Zeigler.

“They’ll go before the court system and it’ll be added to their time,” Allison said.

From here on out Allison said he will conduct in-house searches on a regular basis and every now and then he will call in the ERT to conduct a thorough search whenever he believes it’s necessary.

Comments made by inmates prompted the search.

“They even told some of the correction officers that ‘Y’all don’t control this jail, we do,’” Allison said.

About a week ago a television was turned off early in an area. Inmates in that area became unruly because of the change so Allison said those inmates were locked down and the television was removed.

“If they act like grown ups and do what’s right, I will give the TV back,” Allison said.

Allison said he got the idea to do the search from his lead investigator Shane Tucker who started his law enforcement career as a corrections officer. Tucker told Allison that he remembered using the ERT as the jail she used to work, so Allison called the team in.

Allison said he and his staff took notes on how to conduct searches and will use what they learned in their searches.

For the most part the search went well. Only some of the inmates had to be put in lock down and only one inmate caused trouble.

The aim is to be good to the inmates and make the jail a better place, Allison said. If the inmates will not cooperate, then certain freedoms will be denied, which includes access to purchase additional items.

“We’re trying to clear things up and make sure they don’t have access to things that they can use hurt our personnel with,” Tucker said.