Testimony reveals inmate abuse

Published 12:36 am Monday, November 12, 2007

GULFPORT (AP) — Nine former jailers have been sentenced for their roles in abusing inmates at the Harrison County Jail, but it appears the investigation is continuing rather than winding down.

New information emerged during testimony in federal court this past week, including claims that key officials in the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department ignored evidence that an officer broke an inmate’s jaw in the jail shower room in August 2005.

The timing of the alleged attack is significant because it was nearly six months prior to the fatal booking room beating of inmate Jessie Lee Williams Jr. It was Williams’ death in February 2006 that prompted a massive investigation by state and federal officials.

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Former jailer Ryan Teel was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Williams and other abuses. Eight jailers were sentenced last week to lesser prison terms or probation.

‘‘The investigation continues,’’ District Attorney Cono Caranna said.

The latest developments in court allege that former warden Diane Gatson-Riley and Capt. Steve Campbell, who ran the sheriff’s professional standards unit, knew about the broken-jaw incident, according to a Sun Herald newspaper report. Jail security reports obtained by the Sun Herald confirm the broken jaw came from an officer-involved incident, but the jail failed to report in court-ordered reports.