Harrison County Jail Praised By Auditors

"We found 38 in compliance and so you have a hundred percent of the mandatory standards and that's great," American Correctional Association audit chairman Robert Brown, Jr. said.

During a report given to jail staff and county officials on Wednesday, the audit team explained that in addition to the 38 mandatory standards, the jail must also receive 90 percent compliance of 439 other standards in order to be accredited. The Harrison County Jail received a 95.8 percent.

"From the history of this institution, bringing it from where the Justice Department said it was the most dangerous in the country, to the only accredited county jail in the state of Mississippi is historical and y'all done it," Harrison County Sheriff George Payne said.

Sheriff Payne says he knew the jail could not achieve 100 percent compliance. One problem the audit team found was that it's overcrowded.

"The rated capacity of the facility is 672," auditor John France said. "The count on 6-25-02 is 791."

The audit team says overcrowding is a problem almost everywhere in the country and something that will be tough for the jail staff to fix.

"The county's got to come up with some diversion programs and some programs that keep that massive flow of people [from] coming in that front door," Brown said.

Auditors also said the jail is lacking an indoor recreation facility, and is missing some necessary paperwork. But overall, they said they're impressed with the facility.

Accreditation is expected to save the county money.

"All the other problems and lawsuits that we have, we're now operating by the only set of standards and it insulates you from those lawsuits," Sheriff Payne said.

Receiving accreditation is also expected to save the county money on insurance rates.

The auditors will present its report to the accreditation commission in January. That group will ultimately decide if the Harrison County Jail will be accredited.