Several government witnesses were called to push back on testimony by Hinds County officials before closing arguments Tuesday afternoon. The witnesses were former Jail Administrator Kathryn Bryan, court-appointed jail monitor Elizabeth Simpson and monitoring team member David Parrish.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves has presided over the hearings. He is expected to decide whether to place the jail under federal receivership for failing to make improvements at the jail or order other another remedy.
Bryan talks about working relationship with sheriff, denies role in jail walkout
Former jail administrator Bryan refuted many points brought up during the testimony of Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones, including how the two worked together leading up to her departure from the sheriff’s office.
Bryan said she told him that she could not be the jail administrator with him if their ability to work together did not change. Bryan told an attorney for the U.S. government she didn’t have enough time to make changes, as she intended to, to help bring the jail into compliance.
Things rapidly changed after the death of former Sheriff Lee Vance, and several months into her role as jail administrator Bryan said she was reconsidering her work with the county.
“I didn’t want to resign,” she said in court. “I was trying very very hard not to resign.”
Bryan submitted her resignation in November to take effect in February, but Jones moved her last day up to the end of January.
Attorneys and Judge Reeves asked Bryan about an allegation from Jones’ testimony that she organized, or had prior knowledge about, a jail staff walkout last year over pay and other issues. Bryan denied the allegation.
She answered no to a series of questions by Reeves about whether the current and present sheriff and county officials had previously accused her of orchestrating the walkout. Reeves also asked if the walkout came up during any conversations about her resignation.
Court-appointed jail monitor Simpson said she learned about Bryan through a staff member on the monitoring team who worked with Bryan through the National Institute of Corrections. From there, Simpson recommended Bryan as a jail administrator to the county.
Attorneys asked whether she ever told the county it needed to hire her choice as jail administrator or another person to meet requirements of the consent decree. Simpson said no.
Reeves asked about the county’s obligation to hire a jail administrator as laid out in the consent decree. Simpson confirmed someone could be hired as long as they had the right qualifications, which she said Bryan and another previous jail administrator met.
Monitor team member: Jail repairs ‘a never-ending process’
Jail monitoring team member Parrish testified as an expert on jail security and infrastructure.
He last visited the jail at the end of January and saw a mental health unit in B Pod still needs to be completed. Other work is needed for doors and locks because they are damaged shortly after being repaired.
“Unfortunately it’s a never ending process there,” Parrish said.
In response to testimony by County Administrator Kenneth Wayne Jones and Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun, Parrish said they don’t seem to have an idea of what direct supervision is.
During the testimony, county witnesses said it was dangerous to place jail staff in housing units. Parrish said the inconsistent presence of staff to supervise detainees creates gaps in the jail.
“That’s why there’s damage and that’s why there’s problems,” he said.
Reporter Mina Corpuz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz.