Two weeks ago, Hinds County Sheriff's Department employees flooded the Board of Supervisors board room, urging Supervisors to restore $2.5 million that they had voted to cut out of the Sheriff's 2013 budget. The crowd won, and the cash was restored, bringing the Sheriff's budget to roughly $22 million.
This week, District 4 Supervisor Phil Fisher, who voted against restoring the money, says he's surprised to see that the Sheriff has not used $1.7 million from the 2012 Fiscal Year.
Fisher says it's the largest amount he's ever seen a department return. He questions why the money hasn't gone toward filling vacancies at the detention center.
"He's been here since January. He's had nine months. We've had three escapees and a jail riot. It would seem like we would not be short 47 people in the jailing end of it," Fisher says, adding that Sheriff Lewis was called over to explain it Thursday morning during a budget meeting.
"I would hope this whole conversation we had this morning will motivate the Sheriff's Office to fill out their ranks," he says.
Sheriff Lewis declined to talk on camera, but he tells 3 On Your Side his department would have kept the money if it could have. He confirms there are 47 vacancies in the jail system, mostly detention center officers. He says the department is using better hiring standards than the prior administration, and while it's unfortunate that the positions have not yet been filled, he's making progress.
Sheriff Lewis says the riot and jail escapes were not related to the unfilled positions. He says the disrepair of the Detention Center is the big culprit.
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