Escapee Suspects In Court; Jail Accreditation Revoked

The three prisoners charged with breaking out of the Harrison County jail Sunday morning appeared in court on Wednesday. And they all had their bonds raised to $250,000.

WLOX News has also learned that investigators were narrowing their search for potential accomplices who helped at least one of the inmates get away. People inside and outside the jail could be implicated.

Situations like the Sunday jail escape are not unusual. Harrison County had a reputation in 1999 for having the most dangerous jail in the country. So, then sheriff George Payne put a plan in place to improve jail conditions, and qualify the facility for an American Correctional Association accreditation. Harrison County got that certificate in 2003. But an ACA spokesman said it got revoked sometime after the Jessie Lee Williams tragedy.

In an interview at his Gulfport office, new sheriff Melvin Brisolara said reaccreditation wasn't his concern. His focus is on public safety, inside and outside the Harrison County jail.

"The jail has been tainted. It's been under a cloud," Brisolara admitted. "We've got to clear the cloud and move forward."

Sheriff Brisolara said that focus started prior to Mark Kee Brown and three other inmates escaping from the Harrison County jail. And it's been reinforced during the lockdown he ordered after Sunday's jailbreak.

"We have to reeducate the inmates in that jail that the sheriff's office, those corrections officers have control of that facility," he said.

In recent days, Brisolara has been rather candid about the condition of the jail he inherited when he became sheriff.

"When you see the facility and you see the equipment and stuff, the disarray it's in, it's unbelievable," he conceded.

The sheriff said what Sunday's escapes did was make the public more aware of the deplorable conditions inside and outside the jail. Those conditions should be improved with the $10 million authorized by Harrison County supervisors this week, to fix cell doors, replace locks and add temporary housing out here.

"We don't want a repeat of the past. We need to move forward," said the sheriff.

Until recently, the Harrison County Adult Detention Center has been accredited by the American Correctional Association. But an ACA spokesman said the organization "had elected to revoke their prior accreditation," not because of inadequate safety concerns, but because the jail death of Jessie Lee Williams wasn't immediately reported to the association.

Sheriff Brisolara has no plans to be recertified.

"They bailed out. I don't need them. Harrison County doesn't need them," he said.

When the sheriff was asked about a regional jail replacing the county jail, he said a facility like that would lose money, so he was against it.

When the issue of privatizing the jail came up, Brisolara pointed out that private companies lost interest in Harrison County last year, when they saw how much it would cost to repair the facility.

Sheriff Brisolara also announced two change he's making to his department's internet website. The public docket will no longer be online. However, people can still view it by going to the jail and asking to see it.

Change number two is in the booking area. Brisolara said the internet camera installed in the booking area after the Jessie Lee Williams tragedy will be disconnected. The sheriff said people charged with misdemeanors like writing bad checks didn't deserve to have their names or their faces splattered across the internet.