Harrison County Opens Its New Youth Detention Center

Harrison County supervisors made more than $1 million worth of improvements to the old Biloxi jail so it could meet federal guidelines. And then they hired Mississippi Security Police to run the 48-bed facility.

The private company already handles security at the Jackson County youth jail. Now, it's doing the same thing in Biloxi.

It took a few extra seconds for security officers to find all the right buttons on their new control board. But once they did, they got 19 kids into the new Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center without a hitch.

Control room operator Dede Cannon said the first day was "very hectic. But it wasn't as bad as we thought."

What used to be an adult jail will now house 10-17 year old kids who run into trouble with the law. Harrison County renovated the old Biloxi jail because its Gulfport juvenile detention facility didn't meet federal standards.

Fearon Jenne is director of the juvenile jail. As he walked down one of its hallways, he pointed out the improvements. "As you can see, the colors are bright," he said. "New floors, new paint, new doors. It looks like a brand new facility and I think they did an outstanding job with it."

Jenne represents Mississippi Security Police. The Pascagoula company took over juvenile detention center security from the Harrison County Sheriff's Department. He said, "We'll hopefully give them a little bit of guidance, continue the education that everyone needs."

Mississippi Security Police has a one year, $1.5 million contract with Harrison County supervisors to run the juvenile detention center. The company hired 28 correctional officers. Several worked for the Harrison County Sheriff's Department at the old Gulfport center. Now they're here to help make a difference in kids' lives.

"I think it's going to be better because we're working with children," Cannon said. "And I think you can change their lives. There's hope for the children, I hope."

The Monday after Thanksgiving, the Biloxi School District will assign two full time teachers to the youth jail, so kids can learn while they're in custody.

By the way, youth court is still held in Gulfport. So the Gulfport facility will be used to hold kids who are waiting for their court appearance.