Security Beefed up at County Jail

A more secure jail has always been Sheriff George Payne's concern,  but when six inmates broke out a year ago, Payne declared enough is enough.

Barricades block off part of the Harrison County jail parking lot. The area will soon become a construction zone as workers begin breaking up concrete to install a new fence 20 feet from the existing fence. The sheriff's department's Chief of Security,  Rick Gaston says, "In between the two fences, the new one and old, will be large so called boulders or what we refer to 'em as ankle breakers, they'll have to crawl over those, run over those."

Friday,  the contractor made some last minute measurements for the fencing.  Johnny Jones says it will be the same kind that surrounds maximum security federal prisons; perhaps making prisoners think twice before trying to break out. "This new inner, outer barrier that they're puttin' is gonna be tough, that's not gonna be the way to go."

Inside the jail, three of the four cell blocks have new control panels. They make the officers job much easier with just a touch of the computer screen. The technology replaces the old bulky box controls that didn't always work. "That equipment is not made or sold anymore so what we had was obsolete and no way to replace it and we have just simply upgraded our security system," Gaston says.

That includes putting more corrections officers to work too. 25 more are on the job than when Sheriff  Payne took office last year. Warden Dianne Gatson-Riley says, "The main thing we want to have is adequate staffing to implement the security measures that we have in place because all the hardware in the world does no good if we don't have the staff here to perform the tasks that are necessary to maintain a secure facility." Sheriff Payne says securing the jail is the most important issue on his agenda for the community's safety.