Jails and Prisons

Like other jurisdictions, Mississippi utilizes a broad array of correctional measures, among them local county jails, state prisons, regional jail facilities, and juvenile facilities. The sheriff of each county is charged with operating the local facility, hiring personnel to supervise inmates, and providing transportation and services such as meals, recreation, and medical treatment. Local jails are extremely diverse in terms of inmate capacity, physical size and structure, and number and type of personnel, ranging from one- or two-cell facilities in rural areas to the Harrison County Jail and other facilities with inmate capacities exceeding five hundred.

The inmate population in local jails is extremely diverse. Local jails were originally developed to provide housing for suspects awaiting trial on either state or local charges and for local inmates serving sentences for misdemeanor criminal offenses or violations of city ordinances. However, for a variety of reasons, most local jails now also house state inmates on a long-term basis. State inmates customarily remain in local jails for thirty days following their convictions while awaiting transfer to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility for processing and classification. Depending on the availability of beds in state facilities, state inmates may remain in local jails for longer periods of time. In addition to state inmates awaiting transfer, local jails are typically approved to retain state inmates who qualify for trusty status or who will participate in approved work programs. While in the local facility, these inmates provide services to the county or municipality, including building and property maintenance, construction, and beautification projects for public facilities, roads, and parks. Funding for local jails is a county responsibility. As with other county expenditures, the Board of Supervisors is responsible for funding the operation of the jail and the provision of inmate services.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections is the agency responsible for the operation and maintenance of the state prison system. Mississippi currently operates three public prison facilities: the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility at Pearl, and the South Mississippi Correctional Institution at Leakesville. All are accredited by the American Correctional Association.

Officially opened in 1901, the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman is the oldest state prison in Mississippi and is located on approximately eighteen thousand acres in Sunflower County. The only maximum security prison in the state, Parchman, as it is known, is also the largest facility, with approximately 3,350 beds. Mississippi’s death row inmates are held at Parchman.

The Central Mississippi Correctional Facility opened its doors in 1986 and is situated on 171 acres in Rankin County, near Jackson. The facility currently serves as the receiving and classification center for all inmates sentenced to the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. During this process, inmates receive medical and psychological examinations, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, and educational and intelligence testing. In addition to serving as the classification center, the institution houses approximately thirty-four hundred inmates and is the only state facility authorized to house female offenders, including those on death row. The institution is also authorized to house male offenders. The Central Mississippi Correctional Facility has minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security units and provides housing for male inmates with medical or physical conditions that require ongoing or specialized treatment.

The South Mississippi Correctional Center was established in 1989 and is located in Greene County. It is the smallest state facility, with an inmate capacity of approximately thirty-two hundred. This institution has minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security areas and offers the regimented inmate discipline program, a paramilitary-style boot camp to which offenders can be sentenced.

To augment the number of beds available at the three major state prisons, the Mississippi legislature approved the creation of fifteen regional facilities that are jointly operated by the county and state. Each facility is authorized to house 280 state inmates. Private companies operate six facilities throughout the state. While the majority of state inmates remain housed in public facilities, Mississippi utilizes private prisons more than any other state per capita.

Mississippi also has two training schools for juvenile offenders who are adjudicated delinquent by the youth court. Juveniles may be held in the training school until their twentieth birthday. Columbia Training School in Marion County is authorized to house female offenders and younger males. The Mississippi Youth Correctional Complex, more commonly known as Oakley, is located in Raymond, in Hinds County, and houses older males. In addition, a private juvenile facility was established in 2001 in Walnut Grove. Operated by Cornell Companies, this facility is authorized to house approximately one thousand juvenile offenders.

Further Reading

  • Mississippi Code Annotated, secs. 43-27-2, et seq. (2008)
  • Mississippi Code Annotated, sec. 43-27-29 (2008)
  • Mississippi Code Annotated, sec. 47-5-3 (2008)
  • Mississippi Code Annotated, sec. 47-5-110 (2008)
  • Mississippi Department of Corrections website, www.mdoc.state.ms.us
  • Mississippi Department of Human Services website, www.mdhs.state.ms.us
  • David Oshinsky, “Worse Than Slavery”: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (1996)
  • William Banks Taylor, Down on Parchman Farm: The Great Prison in the Mississippi Delta (1999)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Jails and Prisons
  • Author
  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date July 16, 2020
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 14, 2018