The city of Indianola spent $86,634.95 in fiscal year 2016-17 on housing prisoners inside and outside of Sunflower County.
According to numbers provided to The Enterprise-Tocsin by the city, $63,455 (73 percent) of that money was spent at the Sunflower County Jail.
The city spent $20,025 housing prisoners in the Leflore County Jail and $3,154.95 taking inmates to the Bolivar County Jail.
Much has been made in recent weeks about the practice of local municipalities housing prisoners in county jails other than Sunflower County’s.
The Enterprise-Tocsin found that over the last year and a half, the majority of local cities have taken prisoners to neighboring counties.
Most of this business was done without interlocal agreements or a contract between the municipality and the local county board of supervisors.
Interlocal agreements are typically required for such transactions.
Moorhead was the lone city to provide such an agreement, a contract it entered into with Leflore County in December 2010.
Indianola’s business with Sunflower County Sheriff James Haywood’s jail had begun to dry up in the first half of the current fiscal year, which starts in October. Haywood made mention of this during a board meeting weeks ago, which resulted in a contentious meeting between Indianola officials and the county board the following week.
Tensions have calmed, and Indianola is currently bringing its prisoners to the Sunflower County Jail, but some in the community continue to push for 100 percent participation throughout the county.
Ruleville, for instance, has been and continues to house its prisoners in the Bolivar County Jail, along with the Drew city jail.
Two weeks ago, the Sunflower chapter of the NAACP held a joint press conference with the Concerned Citizens of Sunflower County, and they also invited Haywood to speak.
Haywood said taking inmates to other counties may have an adverse impact on his employees.
“If we don’t have the inmates brought to us, it hurts them,” Haywood said at the press conference. “We might have to let some of them go.”
Local NAACP President Charles Modley said his organization and the Concerned Citizens back the sheriff.
“I just want Sheriff Haywood to know that the NAACP and the Concerned Citizens of Sunflower County are going to support him in his efforts and that our money does not leave Sunflower County,” Modley said.
A few days later, Democratic Executive Committee Chairman David Rushing spoke to the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors in support of the sheriff, and he spoke against the practice of taking prisoners out of county in general.
“Our position is we don't really care about what the reason is, who's doing this, who's not doing this,” Rushing said. “We just think it needs to be kept in Sunflower County, and whatever the issues are, they need to be worked out.”
A municipality is charged anywhere from $25 to just under $40 per day for a prisoner to be held in Sunflower County, Leflore County or Bolivar County.
That money does add up over time, but how much is actually leaving the county?
For the first six months of the current fiscal year, Indianola has spent $43,969 housing prisoners.
The city has spent $32,340 in Sunflower County, and $11,629 has been spent in Leflore County.
Had Indianola continued to exclusively send prisoners to Leflore County for the remainder of the current fiscal year, it would have likely surpassed the $20,025 it spent with Sunflower’s neighbor to the east a year ago.
While Indianola did consciously decide to take its prisoners to Leflore beginning this year, Indianola’s Rosenthal said that much of the money spent outside the county last fiscal year was not by choice.
He said that many of the city’s prisoners were turned away for one reason or another, and that forced his officers to go out of county.
After a while, he said, it made more fiscal sense for Indianola’s prisoners to go straight to Leflore’s facility.
Ruleville is another municipality that sends prisoners out of county.
It currently splits its inmates between Drew’s city jail and the Bolivar County Jail.
According to the numbers provided to The E-T by the city of Ruleville, the city spends an average of $8,000 per year housing prisoners at the Drew jail and around $8,200 per year sending inmates to Bolivar County.
It is worth noting that Ruleville sits just over 15 miles from the Bolivar jail facility, while a one-way trip to Sunflower County’s jail is around 23 miles.
Compounding the logistics issues, Ruleville also has an outstanding bill with the Sunflower County Jail north of $20,000.
The county has made it clear it is willing to forgive that debt if Ruleville would like to begin bringing its prisoners back to Sunflower County.