Harrison County considers jail expansion plans

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  Harrison County supervisors are considering the best plans for expanding the county jail.  Sheriff Melvin Brisolara favors a $21.4 million plan that would add 500 beds, improve the medical unit and add a new booking area. But supervisors may prefer to tackle the project in phases.

There's no question about the need for more jail space, but funding appears to be the bigger issue right now. Sheriff Melvin Brisolara describes the current jail facilities as "busting at the seams."

The main jail is currently undergoing an extensive renovation that includes repairs to the roof, replacing the lock system and installing video surveillance. But the maximum inmate capacity of the old adult detention center is 760. That's why the county began leasing temporary space last year.

The so-called "jail pods" provide more than 300 extra beds. But supervisors say they are very costly - about a million dollars a year to lease. That's why the county is now taking a serious look at a jail expansion package that could provide enough extra beds to meet long term needs.

"We're looking at adding an additional 500. That's what the proposal was, modifying our medical unit and also modifying the booking area, to take care of the volume of people we have in that facility. Medical area is going to have to be enlarged simply because we're increasing in numbers," says Sheriff Brisolara, "Now, all of that we need to do right, you know, we might not have to expand all of it right now. Let's do a 250 bed expansion now and the rest down the line. But 250 beds is not a long term solution. I just wanted to make sure they understood that."

Doing the entire project for $21.4 million could require a public vote, if supervisors decide to raise the tax millage rate to provide the money for it. But, they also talked about the possibility of expanding the jail in phases.

No decisions were made at Monday's meeting, but the board did schedule a work session for March 18th to talk about jail project plans.

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