Former state legislator Irb Benjamin from Rienzi has abruptly cut ties with two prisons.
WTVA reports that he resigned as Alcorn County Warden this past week.
Emily Pettus had a more expansive piece on Benjamin who has run prisons through a private company.
Alcorn County Board of Supervisors president Lowell Hinton told The Associated Press that Benjamin’s resignation is related to the escapes.
“He said maybe some newer, fresher eyes could maybe see some things he didn’t see,” Hinton said Monday. “With him driving from Jackson up here…he wasn’t able to spend as much time as he anticipated spending.”
Hinton said Benjamin was hired for a no-bid contract to run the jail about a year ago. Hinton said he didn’t know how much the county paid Benjamin and Mississippi Correctional Management Inc., the company for which Benjamin is a registered lobbyist.
The supervisors’ attorney could not immediately be reached for details about the contract.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections website shows Benjamin, of MCM Inc., has been warden since Jan. 1. Hinton said Benjamin had already been working as a consultant for the Alcorn County jail when the facility was built and when it opened in 2011.
The jail originally was managed by the local sheriff, but Hinton said supervisors wanted better financial management.
“Since Mr. Benjamin was already familiar with the prison and the operation of the prison and the problems we were having financially, and since he was already supposed to be our consultant, we just asked him,” Hinton said, explaining why the supervisors didn’t seek bids for a contract. “Since he had other prisons, we asked him if he would be interested, we asked him if he had suggestions. He said yes, we could try it on a trial basis.”
The involvement with Benjamin, a Democrat, and prisons go back to the early 2000s. Bobby Harrison wrote that he was paid over $600,000 in the early 2000s to open two prisons.
Irb Benjamin, a former state senator from Rienzi, was paid $606,000 for work done as the developer of regional prisons in Carroll and Marion counties.
During the past legislative session, officials with the 10 county-owned regional prisons, which are paid to house state inmates, complained that they were losing money and needed more inmates from the state. Since the session ended, though, the regional prisons have been criticized by officials with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and by a legislative oversight committee for “excessive costs.”
Benjamin, who now lives in Madison and works as a legislative lobbyist, defended his payments, saying he worked on the projects for almost four years and made a minimal profit after expenses.
“I paid all of the expenses for four years,” Benjamin said. “The truth is, when I was finished, I hadn’t made any money.”