Leadership class tours jail
Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2016
Participants in the Pearl River County Partners for Leadership class took a tour of the county jail, heard from law enforcement and court officials about how the justice system works and saw a demonstration about how to process a crime scene.
During the tour of the jail, participants got to see several areas of the facility, including the medical clinic where inmates receive treatment, the booking room and where male and female inmates are housed.
Maj. Julie Flowers, who handles management of the jail’s day-to-day operations, said the facility offers inmates an opportunity to get back on track though a GED program, parenting class, anger management and a drug and alcohol program. The local jail was the first in the state to offer a drug and alcohol program, Flowers said.
A medical clinic is operated by a third party versed in providing care to inmates. Chief Deputy Shane Tucker said that by providing treatment in-house, they reduce the risk of inmates attempting an escape. To dissuade inmates from abusing the clinic as a way to get out of their cell or general population, they are charged a small fee. However, if the ailment is determined to require follow up treatment, then the fee is waived for subsequent visits.
The average population of the jail is about 300 inmates, of which 45 to 50 are women.
Communication within the jail is restricted as much as possible, but inmates still find creative ways to send messages to other inmates by utilizing notes slung through the cracks at the bottom of the doors, or through mop buckets. As a result, jail staff find ways to circumvent those attempts.
Tucker said some inmates attempt to become members of gangs to gain protection while in jail, under the well known names of Simon City Royals, Aryan Brotherhood and Latin Kings, but once out of jail they are not very active in the gangs.
In 2011 the jail was the first in the state to receive American Correction Association accreditation. One of the ways the jail maintains that accreditation is to provide inmates with recreational time outside in the yard, where they can engage in activities such as playing basketball. Any weekday that it is not raining inmates are provided recreational time, which helps alleviate behavioral problems in the jail, Flowers said.
Another positive aspect of being accredited is that the practices used to achieve and maintain that status provided training that has reduced lawsuits and patched any weak points in operations, Flowers said.
When an inmate is booked into the jail, a video log of their belongings is recorded and their fingerprint is taken with an inkless system. Tucker said within about 15 minutes the system matches that fingerprint through the national system and can alert jail staff if the inmate has given a false name.
After the tour leadership participants heard presentations from 15th District Attorney Hal Kittrell about how his office prosecutes cases and from detectives with the Picayune Police Department about how they process a crime scene.
Assistant Chief of Police Jeremy Magri said he, Chief Bryan Dawsey, Det. Krista Groom and Det. Chris Toft talked to the class about how they collect and tag evidence and how they use different techniques to lift fingerprints. Participants also had an opportunity to attempt to lift prints from various surfaces on their own.
The presentation also covered how detectives look at a crime scene to identify pertinent evidence, such as blood samples, and recover it to positively identify and convict a suspect.
Leadership team member Jo Woods said her late husband, Glade, established the course in 2003 with the idea that Pearl River County is going to grow.
Now the class is held annually and teaches participants about leadership skills, but also about local education, health, government, law enforcement, history, the environment and the arts.
Woods said interested parties should have a sponsor, but applications can be found on their website and submitted for consideration.
Classes are held once per month, typically on the second Thursday.