Now that a contract with Hawaii has been signed to fill half of the 1,400-bed Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, Gov. Haley Barbour said he would see about filling the other half with Mississippi prisoners.
"I'm going to call (state Corrections Commissioner) Chris Epps and ask him to look at how we can get Mississippi prisoners put there," Barbour said during a press conference Friday at Delta State University. "Of course, it depends on the price." As a private prison, the Tutwiler facility would be required to house inmates at a 10 percent cheaper rate than that of state facilities. It currently costs the state $46 per day to house an inmate at the state Penitentiary at Parchman, Barbour said. It costs $30 to house an inmate at Greenwood's Delta Correctional Facility, a private prison like Tallahatchie. Barbour has stressed that using private prisons whenever possible could save taxpayers money and cut the already cash-strapped state further budgetary expenses. "I'm trying to cut costs in government, and this is a good way to save money," Barbour told members of the press at Friday's Delta Council Day in Cleveland. Prison officials welcomed the governor's words and hoped a second deal could be reached to fill the prison operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America. "We are receptive to any such dialog like that. We have an existing relationship with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and it has always been a very positive one," said Steve Owen, spokesman for CCA. "I can't speak to the logistics of how and when, but maybe down the road that might be accomplished." As currently written, state law prohibits the Tutwiler facility from housing Mississippi inmates. A total of 475 Hawaiian inmates will arrive by mid-summer from other CCA facilities in Arizona and Oklahoma, according to the contract approved by Tallahatchie County officials Thursday afternoon and signed by Hawaii Friday morning. By August, 125 additional inmates will join the first wave. Currently employing a staff of 144 in Tutwiler, CCA will hire approximately 100 additional workers to accommodate the Hawaiian prisoners.