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Update 12/12- The Mississippi Department of Corrections will resume sending inmates to the Alcorn County Regional Correctional Facility starting Dec. 17.

“The county has contracted with an experienced prison management company,” Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said. “Therefore, I am satisfied that state law and established MDOC policies and procedures will be followed.”

Sending inmates was halted when the state found out inmates were being released for furloughs which was illegal.

This came to light when an inmate died on a weekend pass.

(Alcorn County, MS) The Mississippi Department of Corrections has stopped sending inmates to Alcorn County Sheriff Charles Rhinehart.

The Department of Corrections found at least six inmates who were allowed passes to leave custody even though their level of charges meant they should be constantly monitored, some by an armed guard while off premises.

Rhinehart told WREG the inmates were not supposed to leave at all. He said he let them, because “these inmates work every day and this is something I did for them.”

Rinehart said the inmates make up his work group. They do maintenance on county buildings and are picked based on skills, not their record. He said in exchange, he lets them out on the weekends to visit their family.

News Channel 3 asked Rinehart if he monitors the inmates. Rinehart said he didn’t, but that’s “what [deputies] do, they will call to make sure they are there.”

Last month, Rinehart said Charles Whitaker died of liver problems while visiting his mother. Whitaker was serving 40 years for robbery, burglary and aggravated assault.

“I rather he die at his mother’s than die over here in his cell,” said Rinehart.

Whitaker’s death sparked a state investigation.

A letter sent to Sheriff Rhinehart from Commissioner Christopher B. Epps states, “I, as Commissioner of Corrections, find that your actions blatantly circumvent MDOC Policy and Procedure. The actions exhibited by you and your staff have jeopardized Public Safety for the citizens of Alcorn Mississippi, as well as, the State of Mississippi.”

Epps continued, “The following finds are alarming and greatly undermine, the Mississippi Department of Corrections Mission of public safety.”

The sheriff’s office has until November 29, to hand over a plan of action to the MDOC to ensure unauthorized offender leaves are stopped.