Regional jail a good idea, but tougher reality

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County supervisor Windy Swetman made the suggestion at a board meeting this week:  Why not consider a regional jail?

The idea surfaced as supervisors were considering hiring a jail consultant to review future needs at the adult detention center on Seaway Road.

The idea of a regional jail in Harrison County is not a new one. It was talked about several years ago. But with all three counties currently wrestling with serious jail issues, is now the right time for regional corrections?

"This is just my recommendation; We seriously need to look at regional corrections," said Harrison County supervisor, Windy Swetman, at a meeting earlier this week. "We have the location to put a regional correctional facility where our current facility is. We've already talked about and said we've got the room and the acreage to expand out there.

Jackson County is facing its own jail crisis: an overcrowded facility in need of a swift solution.

As for this talk of a regional jail, Jackson County Supervisor John McKay said, "While it's a great idea, it may be coming a little late to save us. There's an awful lot of details in such a project. If we're going to do it, we'd better hurry up and decide to do it."

State Representative Billy Broomfield of Moss Point said the regional idea is certainly worth pursuing.

"The question has always been, from what I hear from talking with constituents, is where are you going to put the jail?  And the concern is that no one wants it in their community," said Rep. Broomfield. "Now, I believe if Harrison, Hancock and Jackson were to get in a room and sit at the table, that could be accomplished and I believe it would be a win-win."

But it may be a good idea that's a little too late for Hancock County to join in.

"That's an idea we might have considered six or eight years ago," said Rocky Pullman, president of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors. "Right now, we're between a rock and a hard place. And we're moving ahead with plans to build our own corrections facility,"

"And whether we talk to any other counties or not about a regional facility, I'm not saying it can't happen. Not saying that's not a good idea. But that's not going to solve our issues with medical and booking within 18 months," Harrison County Supervisor William Martin said near the end of Monday's board meeting.

Jackson County Board of Supervisors President Manly Barton said he doesn't have a problem discussing the idea of a regional jail.

But he added, "It would take a lot of cooperation and require a lot of different groups to come to the table."

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