The Feb. 5 incident involving the Tate County Jail and its refusal to accept an inmate was not the first time an inmate was released from the facility without questions arising according to Senatobia Police Chief Richard Chandler.
“We arrest suspects who we consider to be a threat,” said Chandler. “We believe they are a threat to public safety, and we take them to jail.”
However, in an exclusive interview with the Tate Record, Chandler names several incidents over the past 12 months which have resulted in early releases of inmates the police department felt should have been behind bars.
On March 2, 2021, Jeffery S. McGee of Senatobia was arrested by SPD on charges of touching a child for lustful purposes and felon in possession of a firearm. McGee was booked into the Tate County Jail at 8:55 a.m. He was released without bond on his own recognizance due to medical reasons by the Tate County Sheriff’s Office at 11:27 a.m. on the same day.
On April 8, 2021, additional charges were brought against McGee and he was taken into custody in connection with sexual battery of a child, gratification of lust and possession of child pornography. He was transported to the Tate County Jail and held under a $450,000 bond. At 1:51 p.m., McGee was booked into the jail. At 5:05 p.m., McGee was again released without bond on his own recognizance due to medical reasons by the sheriff’s office.
“When it comes to Jeffery McGee, him being in a wheelchair’s only part of it. He has a myriad of medical problems. Without being specific, he had issues with several systems within his body,” said Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance. “We’re not equipped to hold somebody in that kind of condition.”
According to the TCSO website, the jail has a full-time nurse and a part-time physician, both of whom are deputized.
Lance explained that the jail has a nurse who maintains business hours at the jail from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Otherwise the nurse is on call for emergencies. The jail also has a physician who visits about two times a week to see inmates who submit requests to see a doctor, according to Lance.
McGee was indicted Oct. 21, 2021 by the Tate County Grand Jury and booked into the jail a third time, but released after posting a $40,000 bond.
“Senatobia tried to take him to Desoto, but Desoto declined to take him due to medical reasons,” said Lance.
According to Desoto County Jail Administrator Chad Wicker, there are no records of McGee being transported and rejected by the jail in 2021.
“We would have the record of that,” said Wicker. “I guess it’s possible maybe they called ahead and were told ‘no’”.
Wicker said the Desoto County Jail currently has two full-time nurses and a nurse is on the premises 24 hours a day.
In an interlocal agreement between the City of Senatobia Board of Aldermen and the Tate County Board of Supervisors, the city pays the jail $35 per day per inmate for all inmates arrested by the SPD. This fee is charged whether the inmate is housed for minutes or for the full 24-hours.
In another incident, a man was arrested twice in the same evening within a matter of hours for the same charge of driving while intoxicated.
On Oct. 11, 2021, Simmie Askew of Crenshaw was arrested for DUI charges by SPD at roughly 6 p.m. He was booked processed and released due to a waiver system implemented at the jail. At 7:55 p.m. Askew was arrested for a second time on DUI charges. Again, Askew was released due to the waiver system in place at the jail.
According to Lance, an intoxicated person arrested on DUI charges must remain in jail for a minimum of five hours while they regain sobriety or they may be released if a legal driver presents a valid driver’s license and signs a waiver claiming to be responsible for the intoxicated person.
In the case involving Askew, two different legal drivers signed separate waivers claiming responsibility for him; therefore he was released within minutes of booking into their care.
Desoto County Jail has no such waiver system in place when it comes to intoxicated people.
According to Wicker, inmates booked into Desoto’s jail will wait a minimum of five hours before being allowed to bond out.
“There is no state statute requiring this,” said Wicker. “It becomes a matter of liability.”
According to Lance, liability is also a factor with the Tate County Jail.
“Liability plays into everything we do,” said Lance.
In a different case occurring in May of last year, Lance said he would have no problem releasing an inmate so they could care for their pets.
On May 18, 2021, Memory D. Mejia, was arrested by SPD and charged with forgery. She was booked into the Tate County Jail on a $25,000 bond set by a judge.
According to SPD, Mejia’s crimes involved stealing from her mother. As a result of the crime, Mejia’s mother was forced out of a nursing facility because she could not afford the fees to continue living there.
After serving three days in jail, Mejia was released on her own recognizance. According to various sources close to the case, Mejia claimed she had no one at home to feed her cats; so she was released in order to care for them.
“She was brought in, and the Chief Deputy did ROR her. I had also heard this story about cats,” said Lance. “I asked the Chief Deputy about that. He did not recall it being about cats, but frankly, I don’t have a problem ROR-ing a non-violent local offender. Because it needs to be said an ROR is a bond. It’s a recognizance bond. If the person doesn’t show up or they do something to warrant being picked back up, we pick them back up.”
Lance said he wouldn’t have a problem releasing a person on their own recognizance if they needed to care for their animals.
“I wouldn’t have had a problem with it if she had no person in her home to feed her animals and she spent three days in jail, I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” said Lance. “I’m not saying that’s what it was for. I can’t find either way.”
An Attorney General opinion issued in 2017 by AG Jim Hood, addresses the issue of bonds in Mississippi. The following question was asked of AG Hood:
“Once a defendant has been charged and his appearance has been set by a Justice Court Judge having jurisdiction, can anyone (ex. court clerk, officer, sheriff, county attorney) change the amount or the type (professional, property, cash or recognizance) of bond set and/or conditions by the Judge without first consulting with that judge or having a bond hearing before a Judge? If so, who has authority to do so and under which statute?
AG Hood issued the following opinion:
“Rule 3.04 of the Uniform Rules of procedure for Justice Court provides: Bail bonds must be approved by the justice court judge. The judge shall have the authority to require bond on a defendant, to require a certain type of bond, and to set the amount of the bond using his own discretion.”
The opinion continues to state, “There is no authority other than the trial judge having jurisdiction and having set bond to alter the bond in any fashion. Of course, a higher court with jurisdiction may in its discretion alter or amend the bond.”
Wicker said inmates being released on recognizance doesn’t happen frequently in Desoto County.
“Infrequently,” said Wicker. “I do think it is important to clarify something. ROR stands for release on recognizance. This is something that has to be ordered by a judicial officer not the sheriff. So typically, the jail staff will contact a judge and ask for the offender to be released.”
As of press time Monday, Sheriff Lance did not respond to questions concerning RORs and whether or not inmates were released without a judges approval for the alterations of bonds.”