- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Hinds County is no longer participating in a program that allows it to house state inmates and use their labor.

Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Grace Fisher told The Clarion-Ledger ( https://on.thec-l.com/2mwFmZ3 ) the 57 offenders assigned to the program were moved Thursday.

Fisher said attorney Ron Welch, who approves county facilities for the program, told corrections officials the county was no longer going to participate.

The county said it did not object to the inmates’ removal.

Hinds County Sheriff’s Department attorney Claire Barker said the county is under a federal consent decree and the detention center is crowded. Barker said the county will continue to use the inmate labor but won’t house them.

“We need that room,” Barker said of work program space. “We are having to make some tough decisions.”

Last year, the Department of Justice and Hinds County reached a settlement stemming from a federal investigation that found the county detention center had violated inmates’ constitutional rights.

When the county wants to use inmate labor it will go to the state community work centers to pick up inmates and return them, Barker said.

Inmates have been used to pick up litter and clean up the state fairgrounds.

The county was one of 25 that had an agreement with the corrections department to house inmates at the counties’ expense.

The department used to pay counties $20 per inmate per day to house state inmates in the program but MDOC stopped the payments in 2015. The counties were still allowed to continue with the program if they chose.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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