Harrison County supervisors consider jail consultant

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County supervisors heard from two jail consultants Monday. But the board postponed a decision to hire one until they get more information.

Supervisors are considering a consultant to get some expert direction about needed improvements at the county jail. But the Monday meeting may have raised more questions than answers about the ongoing jail issue.

"It would be nice if the five of us could be of one mind with what we're looking for. But obviously we're not," Supervisor Kim Savant said.

"I wish I could say that there is typically a single solution to a very complex problem, but there's not," corrections consultant Jim Robertson told the board.

Robertson is a former corrections officer turned consultant who says one key to solving jail problems is finding the "right size" facility.

"Because 'right sizing' is a balancing act. It is balancing public safety against what it takes to manage risk of the offenders, whether they're in the community or inside the facility," Robertson told supervisors.

Consultant Colin Lovett found some real trouble spots at the county jail.

"And I'll be absolutely frank. I think the intake and processing center at the jail, at the moment, is a disaster about to happen," said Lovett.

"Go out there and look at what our needs are to satisfy the Justice Department etc, etc. Then come back and say, board and sheriff, this is what you need to do," Board President Marlin Ladner said.

"It's difficult to give you a defined answer until we know more about your system and what is happening there. But we come up with suggestions, recommendations," said Lovett.

Supervisor Windy Swetman has a suggestion.

"We seriously need to look at regional corrections. We have the location to put a regional correctional facility where our current facility is," said the district one supervisor.

The sheriff said the booking and medical areas need attention now.

"Building a new facility, going into partnership with somebody, that's great for the future. I came to you all with a problem that we have now," said Sheriff Melvin Brisolara.

"And we wanted to hire a consultant to make sure that what we're doing made sense, 'cause we don't want to go down the road we've gone down before, by spending a bunch of money and not know where we're going. Now that's what we're supposed to be hiring a consultant for," said Supervisor William Martin.

Supervisors directed the two consultants to put together proposals and cost estimates, then bring those back to the board.

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