Warden, consultant, prison wizard, former state senator, lobbyist Irb Benjamin said his recent resignation as warden of the Alcorn and Grenada County jails had nothing to do with the MDOC scandal. Emily Le Coz at the Clarion-Ledger followed up JJ post last week about the sudden termination of jail-management contracts by Mr. Benjamin with some new information.
Officials from both counties said they had no warning of the decisions and questioned Benjamin's timing in relation to the federal indictment unsealed earlier this month against Epps and Rankin County businessman Cecil McCrory.
"That has crossed our minds," said Tim Mitchell, Alcorn County's board vice president. "I asked him about it, and he basically told us there was nothing there.".....
But the 69-year-old former state senator said his decisions have nothing to do with Epps or McCrory or the scandal that ensnared the two men. They were prompted instead by his declining health and repeated security issues at the Alcorn facility.
"We had two escapes up there in the last six months, and both times the inmates went out the door with the keys," Benjamin said. "They said paid for better security than they got, and I agree with that. When those things happen, the buck stops here."...
Benjamin's company, Mississippi Correctional Management, has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from consulting with counties throughout the state, including at least three of which either were prompted by or connected to Epps.
In addition to advising the counties on designing and building facilities, Benjamin also helps them obtain accreditation from the American Correctional Association.....
Epps referred Benjamin to DeSoto County to help design and construct a new jail, according to 2008 minutes from a board of supervisors meeting. The county subsequently hired Benjamin for $3,000 per month.
The corrections commissioner also referred Benjamin to Carroll County Sheriff Jerry Carver as someone who could help its regional prison attract more state inmates, according to a 2010 story from the Winona Times.
"Due to the cuts in the number of inmates sent by the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the jail is losing about $50,000 per month," the story states.
The county paid Benjamin a $2,500-per-month consulting fee, and prison finances improved.
Carver confirmed to The Clarion-Ledger that Epps referred him to Benjamin but denied he was under any pressure to hire the consultant.
"I called Chris Epps, and his exact words were, 'Why don't you call Irb, he could probably help you,'" Carver said. "I did hire him but it was my own decision. I was not pressured."
Benjamin continues to receive the $2,500 monthly fee from Carroll County, Carver. It's one of the lowest rates among all his numerous clients.
Bolivar, Holmes, Jefferson, Marion, Pearl River and Yazoo counties all have paid him $4,000 per month each, according to payment records on SeeTheSpending.Org. Hancock and Washington counties have paid him $5,000 per month each, records show.....
Despite ending his oversight contract, Benjamin still earns his monthly consulting fee from a seven-year deal signed in 2011. Supervisors want to terminate Benjamin's consulting contract, Mitchell said, but they're still determining if they can legally do so.
Benjamin's oversight of the Grenada facility began eight years ago, with his company earning an average of $1.3 million annually from the deal and an estimated $10 million since the start of the contract, according to county payment records on SeeTheSpending.Org.... Rest of article. Worth reading.