Grand jury report on Hinds Co. Jail still a hot topic - - Jackson, MS

Grand jury report on Hinds Co. Jail still a hot topic

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Last week's Hinds County grand jury report on the downtown jail continues to make waves this week. It started with an emergency item introduced by Hinds County District Five Supervisor Kenneth Stokes, calling for the board to consider candidates for management and operation of the Raymond and downtown jails.

Stokes said he wanted to follow through with the grand jury report issued Thursday, which recommended Sheriff Tyrone Lewis should no longer be in control of the jail facilities.

The report called Lewis “incompetent” in his abilities concerning the jail system and recommended a circuit court judge strip him of that responsibility.

Now the question remains, does a circuit court judge have the authority to do that?

"Ultimately the Supreme Court could come in and tell the circuit judge that the authority doesn't exist," said Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey. "But there is a close relationship between the court and the jail.”

State law only gives examples of a governor or judge removing a sheriff for certain reasons, which isn't what the grand jury requested.

"If that's what needs to happen, there's a way that it can happen,” Steffey said. “It's just not obvious or easily apparent to me that there's a way to remove these duties, over his objection, without some protracted, involved process."

A source within the Hinds County Board Attorney's office says that supervisors met in executive session Monday, voting unanimously to send that grand jury report to Gov. Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Supreme Court and Attorney General Jim Hood for “clarification.”

One of the biggest complaints cited in the report: an inadequate number of guards which contributes to the problem, as well as a lack of training and pay for those who work at the facilities.

Steffey said those are budget issues which fall under the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, not Lewis.

"I think you can easily make the case that the Board of  Supervisors is every bit as responsible for what happens in  the jail. The buck stops with them,” Steffey said. “You know, the money starts and stops with them."

Steffey said it's good that Bryant will be made aware of the report, since the governor has statutory authority to remove a sheriff under certain conditions.

However, Steffey said he believes it will likely result in a big legal battle, which will do nothing to improve the conditions of the jail facilities in the short term

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