"It is by the Grace of God that we are able to go back home to our families. Please come and see what is going on out there. We have families. I am begging you."
Those words echoed through the boardroom of the recent Yazoo County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning. Chima Nwachukwn, an employee at the Yazoo County Regional Correctional Facility, begged the county board for assistance at the local jail. A native of Nigeria, he has been employed at the local jail for about a year and a half.
Holding up a copy of The Yazoo Herald with the headline from an inmate stating "we can leave the jail at any time," Nwachukwn said everything he read in the article is accurate.
"They are right," he said, pointing to The Herald. "They can leave the jail at any time they want."
Nwachukwn said the facility's camera system, door locking mechanisms and lighting are three of the major issues with contraband and inmate violence. He said inmates are able to reach the ceilings by standing on the top bunk of their beds within their cells. Through the ceilings, they are gathering contraband and destroying cameras.
"Most cameras are not working," he said. "The inmates are very observant, and they study everything. And there is no lighting at the facility. The inmates know that the cameras are weak and can't see good at night. That is a risk for us because we don't know what is waiting for us. You can't see anything."
Nwachukwn said most of the doors within the facility also don't work.
"Most of them are open right now, as I speak," he said. "We are also short of staff, and nothing has been done about it. Our lives are in danger. The warden can't do anything if the (county) board doesn't do anything."
Nwachukwn asked the board to not blame the facility's warden or the county sheriff. Supervisor Cobie Collins said they have never blamed them.
"But if you are shorthanded, the warden knows how many employees he can get," Collins said. "Talk to him about hiring."
Warden Jay Shaw said he cannot keep employees due to the pay scale. He said there are some jail employees collecting Social Security, and they have cut their hours. He also said illnesses have also prevented some employees from being terminated.
"You have to hold on to what you have got," Shaw said. "At the end of the day, you got to have a body there. They can come in for an interview, but when you give them the salary, they walk out."