During the 1999 regular legislative session the Mississippi Legislature enacted a bill to establish standards for the employment, training and education of jail officers. Governor Kirk Fordice signed the “County Jail Officers Training Program (CJOTP) Act”, and the law became effective 1 July 2000.
The County Jail Officers Training Program established the Board on Jail Officer Standards and Training (BJOST) to implement the law and its provisions. The Act directed the Office of Standards and Training to provide the Board with administrative and fiscal support and designated the Director of Standards and Training to serve as staff director of the Board on Jail Officer Standards and Training.
Governor Fordice and the 1999 Legislature found that the administration of county jails, including municipal jails and youth detention facilities, is of statewide concern. The Governor and the Legislature also found that the activities of jail officers are important to the health, safety and welfare of the people of this state and are of such a nature as to require education and training on a professional level.
The objective of the Board is to insure that jail officers are selected according to high standards. Once selected, the Board intends that jail officers have the best preparation feasible to enable them to carry out their duties in a manner that protects the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this state.
Jail Officer Training is the single program activity supported by the Board on Jail Officer Standards and Training. Activities of the Board are either involved directly with jail officer training or in support of such training. The training encompasses all jail officers in the state (county, municipal and youth detention). The Board develops and administers the curriculum and approves training delivery systems. In support of the jail officer training effort, the Board monitors compliance with the law, conducts research to insure program applicability and assist agencies by funding of the mandated training.
The minimum requirements for employment as a jail officer in the state of Mississippi are:
- Be at least 18 years of age, or older;
- Be a high-school graduate or recipient of a GED;
- Be a Citizen of the United States;
- Be of good physical and mental condition and capable of performing the duties under conditions inherent to the profession as verified by a licensed practitioner;
- Be of good moral character as evidenced among other things by having neither a conviction nor a plea of guilty or nolo contendere for a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.
- Individuals must have been discharged from the Armed Forces under honorable conditions.
Fitness for service as it relates to moral character must be verified by an appropriate background investigation.
In order for a person to become a certified jail officer, he or she must first successfully complete the basic training course at an approved detention officer training facility.
The Board has established a training program that must be successfully completed by the jail officer. A jail officer must complete an approved CPR/First Aid course and the Board approved ninety-six (96) hour Standardized Detention Officer Course. An officer working in a youth detention facility must complete an additional twenty-four (24) hour course for juvenile officers.
(§ 45-4-9) After January 1, 2000, no person shall be appointed or employed as a jail officer or a part-time jail officer unless that person has been certified as being qualified under the existing employment standards.
No person who is required to be certified shall be appointed or employed as a jail officer by any sheriff or police department for a period to exceed two (2) years without being certified. The prohibition against the appointment or employment of a jail officer for a period not to exceed two (2) years may not be nullified by terminating the appointment or employment of such a person before the expiration of the time period and then rehiring the person for another period. Any person who, due to illness or other events beyond his control, as may be determined by the Board on Jail Officer Standards and Training, does not attend the required school or training as scheduled, may serve with full pay and benefits in such a capacity until he can attend the required school or training.
Jail officers serving under permanent appointment on January 1, 2000, shall not be required to meet certification requirements of this section as a condition of continued employment; nor shall failure of any such jail officer to fulfill such requirements make that person ineligible for any promotional examination for which that person is otherwise eligible. If any jail officer certified under this chapter leaves his employment and does not become employed as a jail officer within two (2) years from the date of termination of his prior employment, he shall be required to comply with board policy as to rehiring standards in order to be employed as a jail officer.
Any governmental entity that employs a person as a jail officer who does not meet the requirements of this chapter, or who employs a person whose certificate has been suspended or revoked under provisions of this chapter, is prohibited from paying the salary of such person, or providing any public monies for the equipment or support of the jail duties of such person and any person violating this subsection shall be personally liable for making such payment.
As defined by the Legislature, the Board and its activities would be funded by transferring twenty-five percent (25%) of the assessments received by the Law Enforcement Officer Training Fund which funds the Board on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training. The Law Enforcement Officers Training Program (LEOTP) authorized the establishment of a fine assessment system to insure adequate funding for the program. The assessment is added to all court imposed fines and orders of bail forfeiture as a penalty for violation of criminal laws of the state or criminal ordinances of municipalities and counties (excluding parking violations). Fine assessments are collected by the courts and then forwarded to the State Treasurer for deposit. The funds collected are placed in a special fund and then appropriated for purposes of administering the law.
The Board shall authorize, but only from such funds authorized and appropriated by the Legislature, the reimbursement to each governmental entity of at least fifty percent (50%) of the allowable salary and allowable tuition, living and travel expense incurred by jail officers in attendance at approved training programs, if the governmental entity does in fact adhere to the training standards established by the board.
Policies and Procedures
The “Professional Certification Policy and Procedures Manual” located in the navigation menu, describes the policies and procedures the BJOST has established concerning the employment of jail officers in Mississippi. This manual is promulgated pursuant to authority granted the Board on Jail Officer Standards and Training by Chapter 482, General Laws of Mississippi, Section 1 and Chapter 515, General Laws of Mississippi, Section 4. The policies and procedures therefore have the force and effect of law and are written for the guidance of heads and personnel officers of detention agencies whose personnel come under the jurisdiction of the CJOTP.