Legal expert points out need for jail housecleaning

A legal commentator says the Harrison County jail's substantiated track record of inmate abuse at guards' hands indicates that a thorough housecleaning and federal supervision are in order.

Former federal prosecutor Laurie L. Levenson is a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and director of its Center for Ethics.

Levenson said substantiating abuse behind bars can be easier than cleaning it up. She said the status of an ongoing federal investigation involving inmate treatment at the Harrison County jail indicates a major overhaul is needed change the mindset of the staff.

Dozens of lawsuits in recent years have alleged abuse at the jail. Nearly all the cases have been dismissed. Several lawsuits have been filed since inmate Jessie Lee Williams Junior died in February 2006 after he was beaten at the jail. Those lawsuits are pending.

The civil claims are in addition to an ongoing investigation launched after Williams' death 16 months ago and a federal judgment 12 years ago for court-ordered improvements at the jail.

Levenson said when all else fails to bring about change, a federal judge can order needed changes and monitor progress.