Harrison County

Youth detention center too small, grand jury says

Corrections officer Lt. Jimmy Warden of Mississippi Police Security, stands inside of of the day rooms at the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi in 2009.
Corrections officer Lt. Jimmy Warden of Mississippi Police Security, stands inside of of the day rooms at the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi in 2009. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

A grand jury has recommended a larger building for the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center.

The recommendation is included in the final report for latest six-month term in the Circuit Court district based in Biloxi. The report also has information on how the grand jury handled criminal cases.

Though too small, the youth detention center is “clean, well-maintained and well-managed,” and its staff is using innovative diversion programs and a dog therapy program to help rehabilitate at-risk youth, the report said.

The center is among about 17 around the state that houses young people accused of criminal activity or believed to be in need of supervision.

The center is in the old Biloxi jail on McElroy Street, and is operated by Mississippi Security Police.

It was built to provide 48 beds, but its occupancy was limited to 27 youths in 2013. A federal agreement requires an 8-to-1 ratio of youth to staff. An emergency order to release detainees is required if the center is overcrowded for four days.

County officials are considering moving the juvenile detention facility so it is on the same property as Youth Court.

Children’s Shelter

The grand jury said it was impressed with the county Children’s Shelter, which operates at an undisclosed location, noting a focus on safety, structure and cleanliness.

However, its roof needs to be replaced, it needs to be pressure-washed, maintenance is needed on the front grounds and the gutters need to be cleaned, the report said.

The grand jury deemed the Harrison County jail to have adequate security and management.

Also, the grand jury reviewed 346 cases resulting in 230 indictments.

It was in session 12 days and was impaneled by Judge Lisa Dodson.

Its report was filed Aug. 9 and was released by the District Attorney’s Office this week.

Criminal cases Harrison County Circuit Court, Biloxi division

  • Total cases considered: 346 (21 returned as habitual offenders, 21 returned with potential enhanced penalties)
  • True bills: 230 cases indicted
  • No true bills: 90 cases (insufficient evidence found to indict)
  • Cases returned to law enforcement: 8
  • Cases docketed in error: 7
  • Cases passed to next grand jury: 11
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