Harrison Co. supervisors consider proposed jail expansion

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  A proposed $18,000,000 addition to the Harrison County jail could be decided by voters with a special bond issue. That's one option being considered by county supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors heard from the sheriff and a jail consultant during an afternoon workshop Monday.

Overcrowding at the county jail has been a problem for years.  In fact, the jail is still run under the watchful eye of the federal Department of Justice because of overcrowding and other facility problems.

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara presented supervisors with preliminary plans for a 250 bed expansion

"Basically, we've completed a schematic design phase of this master plan," said consultant Jimmy Hebert, as he pointed to plans for the addition.

Phase one of a proposed $18 million jail expansion means more than just adding beds.

"This includes the new medical section, the new booking section, video visitation," said Sheriff Melvin Brisolara.

"Basically on housing, that's what we did. We got it down to...  it's more than what they need now, but it should hold 'em five to ten years under normal circumstances," Hebert explained.

"Without the temporary buildings, first phase will get us up to about 1040 beds, including the larger medical area," said the sheriff.

"We have people serving weekend sentences, and we have no place to put them safely. And that's something we have to consider. This is absolutely vital to the county's long term interest," said Warden Don Cabanna.

Supervisors didn't question the need, but are concerned about cost.

"At what point do we make a decision as to how we're going to finance this thing?" said the board president.

Sheriff Brisolara said some revenue could be generated by the jail. For instance, raising the rates cities are charged for housing inmates.

"My recommendation is to notify the cities that we're raising their rates up to at least $50 a day. It's strictly up to y'all what you want to do. This is options for you to look at with funding," said Brisolara.

Supervisors said it will take more than raising fees to cover a bond issue.

"We can go out for a GO bond with an election, for $18 million to pay for it. Or this board can bite the bullet and raise the millage, without that. And I don't think I'm prepared to do that. I am not prepared to put one iota of millage added to the people of Harrison County without them voting," said Board President Marlin Ladner.

Since it was only a workshop, supervisors took no action.

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