Sheriff: Restitution center could ease jail overcrowding

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County leaders want to do something about the growing number of inmates in the county's jail.

A new national report shows that one in 32 people is under some kind of correctional control. That's 7.3 million adults that are either on probation, parole, in prison or in jail.

On any given day there are about 1,000 inmates in the Harrison County Jail.

"Short term, I would say 30 to 60 days. Long term, I would say anywhere of up to two years," said Captain Phil Taylor.

From misdemeanor crimes to felony convictions, after 15 years at the jail, Captain Phil Taylor has seen it all.

"We get people arrested for what appears to be petty type charges where that person could have been cited, that person is brought to jail and that adds to our population," said Taylor.

Taylor says Harrison County needs more alternatives for people who break the law.

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara agrees.

"Starting from the street officer all the way up into the court system and the judges," said Sheriff Brisolara. "I think everyone needs to take a look at things and make sure we're locking up the right people."

Sheriff Brisolara says it's very costly to house inmates. He believes the cost exceeds the original estimate of $45 per day, per inmate. That's why he thinks law enforcement leaders need to think twice about who they bring to jail.

"I think what we've got to do is just really make sure we're locking people up because they are a menace to society, not because we're mad at them," said Brisolara.

The Sheriff suggests a restitution center for misdemeanor offenders, much like the center in Pascagoula. He says not only will the center help cut overhead costs, but it will make room for more dangerous criminals.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.