HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The inmate count at the Harrison County jail on Friday was the lowest it's been in years: 438. That's a vast improvement from just a few years ago, when the prisoner population was often 1100 or more. But is the improvement enough to remove the federal court order which has been hanging over the county for nearly 20 years?
Friday afternoon, Sheriff Melvin Brisolara, had a conference call with the U.S. Justice Department.
"There have been big improvements here. We can all sit here and look at the past. We have to look at the present. Look at what's happening right now. Stop bringing up the past," said the sheriff.
If the sheriff seems a little frustrated, that's because he is. He says the county has done everything the court order demanded: inmate numbers are down, medical care for inmates is greatly improved, and so is training for his officers.
"And all of this working together got our numbers down to where we can control 'em. You know we reduced our jail population 47 percent. That ought to mean something to justice," he said.
The sheriff says one reason inmate numbers are down is because court cases are moving much more efficiently. He credits teamwork between his office, the district attorney, the public defender, and the judges.
"These people are communicating with one another, and keeping up with the status of the individuals in here. To make sure that we move 'em, get 'em before the courts when they need to go."
Harrison County supervisors have expressed a willingness to take the issue back to court if need be. In fact, the issue was discussed as recently as this week's board meeting.
"We are, at some point, asking to get released from that. Or else, go to court," said Supervisor Marlin Ladner at Monday's meeting.
In Friday's conference call, consultants with the justice department raised three new concerns, mostly with medical care procedures. Those will be addressed and a report given to justice in the next few weeks.
"And I'm hoping this is going to be the resolution. But, you know, time will tell. I've been told that before in the past, and new issues come up," said Sheriff Brisolara.