Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hancock County Jail Fire

Hancock holding facility shut down
By DWAYNE BREMER
Dec 27, 2006, 09:03
The temporary holding facility at the Hancock County Sheriff's Department has been shut down for safety concerns following a fire, which was started by inmates over the weekend, Sheriff Steve Garber said Tuesday.
"There are some safety violations we need to fix," he said. According to Garber, two inmates being held in the 8-man unit started a fire Sautrday. The fire damaged the facilities air-conditioning unit, and the state Fire Marshall has recommended the unit be shut down until improvements and repairs can be made, Garber said.
The county has had the holding unit for about a year. Garber said inmates are held in the unit until they can be transported to Pearl River County or Stone County.
He said this weekend's events and reports of possible jail abuse at the Pearl River County Jail only emphasizes the need for Hancock County to have its own jail.
Tuesday morning, Hancock County had 95 inmates held in the Pearl River County Jail, in Millard. Inmates are being held in Pearl River because Hurricane Katrina severly damaged the Hancock County Jail on Court St. To date, nothing has been done with the Hancock County jail, as Supervisors have claimed insurance settlements and structural determinations from FEMA are still on-going.
"Its time we start visiting the jail issue," Garber said. "We need to make a decision."
Garber has expressed the desire to have a new jail built somewhere in the north end of the county.
Supervisors have said if the old jail is less than 50 percent damaged then it will probably be renovated and reopened on Court St.Garber said the 8-man unit was only supposed to be a temporary fix.
"Its been 18 months now," he said. "It was never intended to be permanent."
He said inmates who have a small bond are held in the unit until they can post bond. Inmates who have to go to court are also held in the unit.
By housing the inmates in the unit, transportation and man power costs are greatly reduced, he said.
He said inmates will now have to be transported right away until the temporary unit is repaired.
Jason Duffy, 33, and Patrick Zwiefel, 21, have been charged with destroying public property in connection with the fire, jail records show.

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