A report on inmates at the Leflore County Jail indicates it was safer to be inside the jail than outside during 2018.

In the final quarterly report for the year, Ed Hargett, a consultant hired by the county to monitor the Leflore County Adult Detention Center, told the county Board of Supervisors on Monday that the jail experienced no escapes, no inmate deaths, no attempted suicides, no inmate lawsuits against the county, no reports of sexual assault, no reports of inmate-on-inmate assaults with serious injury, no reports of inmate-on-staff assaults, and no inmate health-care grievances.

All that and the county also saved $13,402 on the cost of inmate medication after switching from Fred’s Pharmacy to Downtown Drugs, where the jail is now getting the Medicaid rate for medications.

Hargett indicated the relatively conflict-free behavior of inmates in the jail could be the result of the efforts of 40 volunteers who visit the jail on a regular basis with various programs.

With an average monthly population of 106, Hargett said, the number of inmates attending faith-based programs was 1,000 on an annual basis. A hundred inmates attended the Authentic Manhood pre-release transition program, and 400 attended Celebrate Recovery A&D, a program to help fight addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Hargett said the jail is currently working with Mississippi Delta Community College on developing a program to build marketable skills for female inmates and to help place them in jobs when their terms are completed. If successful, the county would look at extending the program to male inmates.

“I think it’s a combination of things,” Hargett said. “First of all, you always look to whoever the leader is of an organization. I think the sheriff (Ricky Banks) has done a good job of letting people know what he expects, and we’ve got a good warden and good staff.”

The jail is now in compliance with all rules and regulations for its operation, he said. “Everything working together makes that happen.”

Hargett has worked in prisons for 43 years, including as superintendent at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He said the movement toward faith-based programs in prisons makes a difference in curtailing violence and lessening recidivism.

“Rehabilitation has failed,” Hargett said outside the meeting. Efforts at educational and vocational programs are “not enough.”

Hargett referenced the late Christian evangelist Billy Graham, who said that programs that are intellect-based in retraining inmates and providing them with new skills are an improvement, but that programs needed to be “heart-based” to succeed in changing criminal and violent behavior.

“And that’s what these programs do,” Hargett said of the faith-based missions brought into the jail.

•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.

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