Changes in Standards, Crime Force Decision About Jail
Above, the east side of the Stone County Jail is being considered for expansion potential.
Changing standards for jail operation are mainly responsible for the problems forcing Stone County to consider constructing a new jail, along with an unanticipated rise in crime.
Kirk Green, who now serves as jail administrator, was a Stone County deputy when the current jail was built in 1994-95 and made the move from the little jail on the courtsquare to the current facility.
“When we walked in that building that first day ... the place seemed like a cathedral. It seemed huge,” Green recalled. “Back when we were housing five or 10 inmates, it was.”
It was hard to imagine then that the jail would be considered inadequate in just a couple of decades.
The last jail, in the small building on the east side of the courthouse that now houses the Veterans Affairs Office, could accommodate up to 10 inmates in a pinch. Women were not held at all.
The state was threatening to shut it down, and Green said there was little time to research the design of the current jail.
However, with the new building more than tripling the capacity of the old one, there was little concern about its future at that time.
Changes in the number and type of inmates over the last two decades, combined with a change to jail standards in 2014, has put the county right back where it was in 1994 – with a mandate from the state to correct a list of problems or face closing its jail entirely.
The jail is reviewed annually by the state Department of Finance and Administration Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee. The review includes a checklist of items that are “in compliance” or “out of compliance.”
“About half of it now, we are to the point we are out of compliance,” Green said.
Most of the items on the list pertain to lack of space and personnel.
Standards require that inmates be separated by many classifications, including male vs. female, misdemeanor vs. felony charge, violent vs. non-violent, etc. Mentally ill inmates or those at risk of suicide should be isolated from other inmates, as well as those with contagious diseases or other health issues that put them or others at risk. Men and women are supposed to be separated by both sight and sound. Currently, the Stone County Jail struggles to maintain most of these classifications.
See the full story in the July 25 issue.