Jury wants to shut down jail - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Jury wants to shut down jail

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December 17, 2002

Dawson- A Grand Jury recommends shutting down the Terrell County Jail. Sheriff John Bowens says, "A lot of things here need to be done to bring it up to standards."

The Grand Jury lists more than three dozen problems at the jail, which is being called inadequate, inhumane and unsafe for prisoners and employees. They noted poor locks, no smoke detector or fire sprinklers and unsanitary conditions. In fact, jurors think it's so bad, they recommend closing it while repairs are made.

Rusty signs, peeling paint and broken windows, not a vacant building, but the home to nearly 40 inmates. Sheriff Bowens says, "I wouldn't says it's harmful, but I don't think it's safe for the inmates as well as the employees."

Recently, a Terrell County Grand Jury took a jail tour. It must have been an eye opening experience because now they want it temporarily shut down. Sheriff Bowens is not surprised. He says, "Because a lot of things exist around here that a lot of people didn't know about." Including sewage and plumbing problems. Every day inmates have to mop flooded floor. Sheriff Bowens adds, "Showers and commodes overflowing."

On our tour we also found rotted ceiling tiles and on the outside was rusty razor wire. Sheriff Bowens points to the fence, "Our fence is not accurate. The grand jury says razor wire too low. It's four feet and should be at eight. Lucky we haven't had anyone hurt on that wire."

The Grand Jury suggests moving inmates until problems are fixed. Sheriff Bowens says, "Other Sheriff Department jails charge 35 to 45 dollars a day [per inmate] which will cost a lot of money."

We also found poor lighting, exposed electrical wire and cramped spaces. Sheriff Bowens doesn't want to make it into a nice hotel, but he wants it to be safe.

The Grand Jury also cited the absence of security cameras, poor ventilation and females housed too close to males.

Renovations are not in next year's budget. Commission Chairman Wilbur Gamble says he doesn't want to spend money on a new jail, but prefers bringing the old one up to standard.

posted at 5:40PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com