A growing prison population has led the Shelby County Sheriff in Memphis to explore leasing bed space from a private prison company, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. While sheriff’s officials say they’re just looking for more space when the jail reaches capacity, the talks have sparked fears that the county is, once again, flirting with jail privatization. An attempt to privatize management of the county jail in 2005 and a satellite facility in 2006 spurred protests and heated debates among county leaders and employees. “The same leaders are going to be turning out again in force to oppose this backdoor plan to privatize prisons here in Shelby County,” said Jacob Flowers of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.
Officials say they have inquired about housing inmates at the Shelby Training Center, a 200-bed detention facility owned and operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. The centr is empty because county juvenile offenders now are put directly into state custody. Sheriff Mark Luttrell who is hunting for bed space because the county jail is dangerously close to capacity. While the jail can hold up to 3,200 inmates, the inmate population has reached about 2,990.