Harrison County could soon regain full control of its jail - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison County could soon regain full control of its jail

If the federal government gives control back to the county, the jail will again be allowed to house convicted state inmates and re-open the center on Cowan Lorraine Road. (Photo source: WLOX) If the federal government gives control back to the county, the jail will again be allowed to house convicted state inmates and re-open the center on Cowan Lorraine Road. (Photo source: WLOX)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

After two decades, the Department of Justice is considering giving Harrison County back control of the jail, if the county addresses four stipulations.

A federal decree placed limitations on the Harrison County Jail in 1995 after an investigation revealed overcrowding, undertrained staff, and medical care concerns. In 2007, the decree forced the inmate work center on Cowan Lorraine Road to close. 

"The board will agree on a reply to the Department of Justice next Monday," Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara said. "If it's agreed on, which I feel it will be, it will be sent to the Justice Department. And the Justice Department will file a joint measure back to federal court asking the court decree to be dismissed."

Overcrowding was one of the concerns. The jail can hold 760 inmates. In 2008, there were still more than 800 prisoners at times. But now Sheriff Brisolara said the daily average is between 500 and 550.

"Our jail is being run right," Brisolara said. "We are doing the right thing and we are ready to move forward."

If the federal government gives control back to the county, the jail will again be allowed to house convicted state inmates and re-open the center on Cowan Lorraine Road.

"Which will put work crews back into the community, save taxpayers hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars because we get certified plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto mechanics that we will be able to put out in the community," Brisolara said.

The work center could put up to 130 inmates to work, providing free labor for the county and cities.

"It's a win, win situation for everybody in Harrison County," Brisolara said.

After the letter is sent next week to the Department of Justice, it will be in their hands. But the sheriff hopes the decree will be lifted in the next two to three months.

Others running in the Harrison County Sheriff's race said they are also on board with the change.

Harrison County Sheriff Candidate Troy Peterson said, "I would like to see a supervised work program established through MDOC where state inmates that are sentenced can be housed at the work center to work their fines or sentences off by working in the community."

Candidate Todd Stewart said, "Any improvements at the jail will always foster and help build future relationships between Harrison County and the citizens we serve and we are always looking to do that."

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