Which county will become the first to close all of its correctional facilities?
As the U.S. prison population continues to balloon, the nation’s top prison system is grappling with how to manage the aging facilities and keep them safe.
As many as a half-dozen counties in the South and West have already closed or are considering closing their facilities, including Georgia’s McDonough County in the Atlanta suburbs.
The Georgia Department of Corrections said in a statement it has no immediate plans to reopen.
It cited a recent decline in inmate occupancy and a shortage of staff.
“There are no new vacancies at McDonaughey County, but we do have limited capacity at several facilities, and there are not enough correctional officers to keep up with the growing demand for our services,” the statement said.
In Mississippi, the state’s largest county, the Jackson Department of Correction closed its prison on Dec. 23 after a prison safety and health crisis prompted the state to suspend its use of solitary confinement for inmates and temporarily suspend use of electronic monitoring devices.
The state also said it is reviewing its use-of-force policy, and has asked the Department of Public Safety to review its use policies and training.
“It is time for us to focus on the health and safety of our citizens and the public, and that includes those incarcerated at the McDonaghy County Correctional Facility,” the state said in the statement.
“It is imperative that all correctional officers have the training and the training necessary to provide a safe environment and ensure the health, safety and welfare of our communities.”
Officials from other states, including Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas, have also said they will review their use-code policies.
The closure of prisons nationwide follows a string of closures at other facilities.
In March, the Department for Homeland Security announced it was reducing the number of inmates it holds at facilities nationwide by 50 percent and moving them to county jails.