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Supervisors Considering Privatizing
Harrison County Jail

Letter Sent to Sheriff

by Keith Burton

Harrison County Supervisors feel almost powerless to resolve problems they see at the Harrison County Jail. The most recent is the case of Jesse Williams, who allegedly was beaten to death while in the booking room of the jail last February.

Tuesday, supervisors decided to send a letter to Sheriff George Payne that orders him to provide his comments on a plan by the supervisors to privatize the jail's operations. Supervisors have been unhappy with the sheriff's responses to what is going on at the jail and his administration.

"We have no authority over the sheriff except the budget, and you can't cut the budget without hurting the county," said Connie Rockco, president of the Board of Supervisors.

The letter orders the sheriff to respond by August 7th. Supervisors see privatization as a way to gain more accountability at the jail and lower costs.

As the Williams case is still under investigation, the sheriff  has declined to comment on many of activities at the jail and its operations, often leaving the supervisors in the dark, and just this week a judge prevented a private lawsuit in the Williams' case from moving forward while the long-running criminal investigation is underway.

The jail has a history of problems that date well before Sheriff George Payne including probationary status by the U.S. Justice Department. In recent years, it appeared that progress to resolve many of the jail's problems were being made, but that apparently is not the case.

Rockco says supervisors are also named in the lawsuit and as a result, they are also prohibited in commenting on the case.

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