MT. VERNON — Jefferson County Board Chairman Robert White is lobbying state officials to consider the Jefferson County Justice Center as a facility to reduce overcrowding and safety issues in state prisons.
“We’ve got a huge state-of-the-art facility and 150 vacant beds. It makes me think, ‘What do you do with that? You’ve got to do something with it.’ There’s been a lot of fighting, yelling and bickering concerning the building of the place (jail), and fighting continued after it was built that it shouldn’t have been built. The reality is that it’s a 250-bed facility and we only have an average of 80 of our own detainees,” White said during Monday’s County Board meeting.
In thinking about a viable candidate to help fill the beds, White has proposed the state should consider incarcerating prisoners locally.
“We’ve had overcrowding issues at these facilities, even before we decided to shut any of them down,” he said. “You’ve got major safety issues going on in these facilities. Any of you who know any correctional officers at Big Muddy have heard these stories. The next logical question is where do these people go? The answer is 12,000 convicted criminals get early release because of the state’s inability to balance the budget and their revenues.”
White said the state has a recidivism rate of 77 percent. Recividism is the term used for criminals who recommit crimes and end back up in jail. Using that rate, White said there’s a good chance if 12,000 convicts are released, there’s a possibility 8,000 of them will find their way back to jail.
“All the counties are going to be taking these people into custody remanding for charge. The county has to incarcerate these people while they wait for trial … we’re going to tax the system of our county governments,” White said.