The Mississippi Department of Corrections will not have enough operating money in FY 2018, if the Legislative Budget Office’s recommendation for the agency is adopted, Commissioner Marshall Fisher said.
Commissioner Fisher told House and Senate Appropriation members in separate meetings on Wednesday that MDOC considers the recommendation “a threat to public safety.”
“We are already understaffed,” Commissioner Fisher said. “We have people working double shifts more times than not. You have officer fatigue. You have posts minimally manned.”
The department is requesting $356,415,098; the LBO’s recommendation is $21.5 million less at $334,858,304.
The agency proposes to reduce the funding gap by $10 million through several changes including:
– delaying $5 million worth of major improvement projects, including repairs to prevent escapes, heat outage at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and water and sewer problems at South Mississippi Correctional Facility
– closing two of the 15 regional jails
– postponing vehicle purchase in a system that already has about 200 vehicles with 150,000 or more mileage; and
– reducing the rate MDOC would pay counties above contractual obligations
MDOC’s priorities for the budget year beginning July 1, 2017 are hiring and retaining employees, revamping the alcohol and drug and mental health programs; and adding more transitional beds.
“We are working in a business where the phone could ring any given minute of any day and we have the potential for crisis,” Commissioner Fisher said.
That crisis could include prison breaks, attempted escapes, disturbances inside the prisons, physical assaults, shootings involving probation and parole agents, and contraband cell phones, he said.
*pictured-Commissioner Marshall Fisher speaks to House Appropriations Committee members on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. Seated next to him is Chief of Staff Pelicia Hall. Seated across the table to Fisher’s right are Republicans Rep. William Tracy Arnold of Booneville and Rep. Richard Bennett of Long Beach.