ADA — Several tips from concerned residents phoned in to the Ada Evening News claimed drug court inmates have been sequestered 18 1/2 hours in full public view outside Pontotoc County Courthouse.

Reports of inmates given blankets to keep them warm at night, fed meals by drug court and not the county jail, and spending Thursday night, April 11 under the stars outside the jail facility were some of the allegations lodged by angry residents. They said Pontotoc County jailers, county sheriff’s deputies, drug court staff and at least one Lighthorse Police officer knew of eight or nine inmates held in the quarantine area overnight.

Local officials, refusing to speak about drug court participants’ quarrantine location, said inmates in Pontotoc County Drug Court are protected by the HIPPA regulations of confidentiality.

“I don’t have anything to say about that,” Pontotoc County Jailer Steve Richardson said. “Ask drug court or Judge (Tom) Landrith.”

Anonymous callers said they didn’t want to disclose names of the inmates involved, fearing reprecussions against inmates. By talking to the media, callers were concerned the inmates could possibly be dropped from the drug court program and sent directly to prison.

With confidentiality a high priority for Drug Court Director Londa Johnson, she would not say where drug court inmates were held. “I feel uncomfortable to tell you anything about it. There is no wrongdoing. It’s all above board,” said Johnson.

“There is no question about the overcrowding, and we impose sanctions all the time,” Pontotoc County Judge Thomas Landrith said. “It doesn’t make any difference if they are held in the jail or somewhere else. It’s confidential.”

Landrith expressed his confidence in Johnson’s administration of the drug court program, saying “She would never do anything to jeopardize the program.”

Overcrowding is an issue the Pontotoc County Jail has been plagued with for several years and all the options for housing inmates are being explored by county officials.

Pontotoc County Sheriff Pete Peterson could not be reached for comment.

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