Board Must Look For Jail Alternatives, DA Says Doing His Job - - The News for South Mississippi

Board Must Look For Jail Alternatives, DA Says Doing His Job

The president of the Harrison County Board of Supervisors says the board is open to other ways of solving its jail woes now that privatization is off the table. Thursday night the Senate voted 29 to 17 against giving the board the authority to privatize the jail without the consent of the Sheriff.

One of those "nay" votes came from Senator Ralph Doxey of Holly Springs. He says Harrison County wants the state to take care of its dirty laundry and didn't exhaust all alternatives before going to the legislature.

Legislators won't allow the Harrison County Board of Supervisors to turn the County Jail into a private facility.

Board president Larry Benefield said, "So obviously now if there are other remedies, we will seek those remedies."

Senator Ralph Doxey says those remedies are written in state law that gives both the governor and the district attorney the power to intervene in conflicts between county government and the sheriff.

On the Senate floor, Doxey asked, "Where is the district attorney of Harrison County? Why isn't he doing his job? Why are we here trying to do his job?"

"The senator who was wondering what I was doing, I would wonder what he has been doing," Harrison County District Attorney Cono Caranna told WLOX News.

Caranna says the law Senator Doxey referred to is from the 1800s and deals with an outdated fee system and not with overseeing the jail. Caranna says he is doing his job.

"I have participated as a special prosecutor on a federal investigation and prosecution. There are five deputies who have pled guilty to the information. There are four deputies who are awaiting trial. We are taking care of our responsibility in regard to this matter."

While he says he doesn't have the authority to take over the jail, Caranna says he has suggested that the solution is to have the State Department of Corrections take over. 

"For years, I've advocated that we have a regional prison," he said. "We have not a jail in Harrison County. We have a thousand person prison."

Benefield says something has to be done and soon.

"I think our board is willing to look at anything that will, number one, solve the overcrowding problems, and number two, will make the jail more accountable to the people that finance the jail. Again, that's the taxpayers," said Benefield.

The district attorney says 20 pleas this week show his office is trying to help solve the jail overcrowding situation. Harrison County board president Larry Benefield says the board has not yet met to discuss their next plan of action. 

by Danielle Thomas 

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