Harrison Co. sheriff hopeful federal court order will be lifted - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison County sheriff hopeful federal court order will be lifted soon

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Since 1995, a federal court order has overseen the operation of the Harrison County jail. Now, some 18 years later, the sheriff is cautiously optimistic that longtime order may finally be lifted sometime soon.

"They are down. The numbers are down. They are not where I would like for them to be, but we're working on it," said Sheriff Melvin Brisolara, talking about the inmate population in the county lock-up.

Each month, the sheriff must send the U.S. Justice Department a report on jail operations.

Although the original court order was imposed because of overcrowding, the federal oversight has expanded to include concerns like security, staff training and medical facilities.

"The security of the facility. We took care of all the security issues. We definitely took care of the manning issues. Training. We have done more training in the Harrison County jail in the past five years than I think has been done in the past two decades," said Sheriff Brisolara.

The sheriff is cautiously optimistic 2013 will be the year the justice department releases the county.

"We're getting real close in my opinion to lifting that order. Justice and the county and the sheriff have cooperated together and have been very transparent, and I think that has come out in the reports that justice has given us in the last year," said Tim Holleman, attorney for the Harrison County Board of Supervisors.

"You know, it's just aggravating. You have everybody that wants to run the jail here, but you can't run it long distance. If they want to run it, they need to come sit in this chair with me," said the sheriff.

Over the years, there's been discussion about building a new jail. But at present, Sheriff Brisolara says there's no need to build a new lock-up, or expand this one.

"We don't need to build another facility in Harrison County. We just have to manage this. And we're doing it. And I think we have proven that we can manage what we have," the sheriff said.

The federal evaluation team last visited the jail in November. They'll return for another review in May.

Medical care for inmates has been one recent area of concern for federal evaluators.  Sheriff Brisolara says great improvements have been made in medical facilities and care. He expects the team from the justice department will be pleased with the changes.

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