It's intimidating, razor wire and impenetrable steel. It hasn't even opened yet, and DeSoto County Sheriff Rasco has already given it a nickname. "Well this is the Hernando Hilton and we are proud and excited that in the middle of October is when we get started moving in," he said. Because of the great weather the Mid-South had this winter and summer, the county's new $14 million jail is set to open three months early. When that happens, the county jail will have almost twice the holding capacity that it has right now. The sheriff admits to headaches in the process of trying to get the new jail built. "Well there were people who didn't want the jail built near them, and I understand," he said. "But I was talking to Dorothy Smith and she says, 'I feel as safe there as I do anywhere.'" There were also budget cuts by the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors on the eve of the opening of the new jail. Sheriff Rasco said he saw the bright side of that. "But to get our employees a raise, that was my main goal, they asked me to cut my budget by 5 percent," he said. "We did everything to cut our budget so our employees would get a raise and that was our goal." The new jail will almost double holding capacity in DeSoto County. State and county inmates and those awaiting trial will remain at the old facility. "The first phase is we will move all the females down here to begin with and bring our people who are working down here and get used to all the new fangles and dangles," Sheriff Rasco said. "Then we will move all the city inmates down here. Right now we will be running two facilities until we make the adjustments to make extra cells down here." The jail is built with a 25-year plan in mind, and a maximum holding capacity of 1,000 inmates in mind. "People say this is a small prison. It isn't," the sheriff said. "This is the county jail. With the amount of people coming into our county, that you have to have a place to hold if they break the law." The new jail is greener than the old jail, bulletproof and shatter-proof glass lets light in, but doesn't let inmates out, and sensors turn lights on and off in rooms to help save electricity. "We were in a rented space before, so now the county will not be paying rent on property we don't own."
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