State removes 240 inmates from Alcorn County jail, seizes contraband including jail keys

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CORINTH, Miss. -- Allegations that inmates were basically running a Mid-South jail surfaced after cell phones, weapons, drugs and even the jail keys were recovered.

Investigators said many prisoners were given "free rein" to leave the Alcorn County lockup in Corinth, perform work on private property and even cross state lines.

It's the second time in two years the MDOC has suspended the housing of inmates at the facility and they won't be returning till drastic policy changes are implemented.

On Thursday, inmates at the Alcorn County Regional Correction Facility waved goodbye, after the Mississippi Department of Corrections ordered 240 inmates be removed and sent to other institutions.

Among the inmates was Doris Shelley's son.

"I'm coming down here to see what was going on. And all I know is they are transferring ever last one of them," said Shelley.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said conditions at the facility were out of control.

"It appears to simply just be a "free for all"that was going on at the Correctional Facility," said Pickering.

Pickering said Thursday's action was the result of an ongoing investigation into serious policy violations including prisoners being able to change clothes and leave the jail at will.

"You want them to be readily identifiable as a prisoner. You do not want them, even in trustee status, working on private property. There are numerous allegations," said Pickering.

Investigators seized a mountain of contraband, some obtained while inmates were on work details.

Items that include drugs, tobacco, knives, razors, cell phones and keys to the Commissary and the front door of the jail.

That bit of information was shocking to Lowell Hinton, the Chairman of the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors.

"That is something that is totally a surprise to us as supervisors too. Cause we didn't know the keys were missing," said Hinton.

He felt as though the supervisors were blindsided by the lack of security and discipline at the jail.

He placed the blame on the current Sheriff, Charles Rinehart.

"The way the system is set up, yes sir. He is in control of what happens here in these facilities. We have very...no say so really, over the day-to-day activities," said Hinton.

He said the County will lose money every day the state prisoners are gone; money that was going to pay the county's $23.5 million debt.

"When they're gone then we're not going to be drawing any funds. So, I'm not happy that they're taking them out," said Hinton.

State Auditor Pickering would not comment on what role jail employees played or if any workers will be disciplined.

Pickering said the investigation is ongoing.

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