Federal government to end oversight of Harrison County jail - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Federal government to end oversight of Harrison County jail

Since 1995, the Department of Justice has had authority over everything that happens at the Harrison County Jail. But that's about to change. (Photo source: WLOX) Since 1995, the Department of Justice has had authority over everything that happens at the Harrison County Jail. But that's about to change. (Photo source: WLOX)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

After more than 20 years, the federal government is ending its oversight of the Harrison County jail. A court-ordered judgment that resulted from overcrowding at the lock-up is about to end.

Harrison County supervisor and former longtime board attorney, Joe Meadows, said this is a big day and a big deal.

"We're proud to say that this brings to an end a 20 and a half year saga for Harrison County," board attorney Tim Holleman announced at Monday’s board of supervisors meeting.

With that word, Harrison County supervisors gladly agreed to sign off on the motions to dismiss that long standing federal decree which required jail oversight. 

Supervisor Joe Meadows is the former longtime attorney for the board.

"And it says a lot for what this board has done. By way of improvement at the jail. What the sheriff  has done. And our attorney for the board. And I appreciate very much what they've done. And this is indeed a big day," said Meadows.

Perhaps no one is more relieved than Sheriff Melvin Brisolara, who's fought to remove that federal oversight during his eight years in office.

"I tell ya, it is something I'm really proud of the employees here at the Harrison County sheriff's office. It took every employee doing their job to get us to this point," said the sheriff, "This shows that the Harrison County sheriff's office is running the jail right.  For the U.S. Justice Department to agree to walk away and give you control back, you're doing something right."

Getting that control back means reinstating the inmate work center.

"This definitely opens the door for us. This opens the door. We can start looking at getting our work center back. Which we'll be able to house up to 100 inmates, if we want to get on the work program," said Sheriff Brisolara.

That compliance has come at a cost. Over the years since the decree was first enacted, Harrison County has spent more than $16 million on new facilities and other improvements at the county jail.

"We have issued bonds.  But we have adjusted the millage when we did to pay for those bonds so that the taxpayers have not had their taxes increased to accomplish this goal," said Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

WLOX News asked Sheriff Brisolara about some who might say this announcement was political, since he's about to face a runoff election.

He told us, "Let’s be real, if I had control of this, I would have done it before the primary election."

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