Dougherty County jail population on the rise -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty County jail population on the rise

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –Nearly One percent of the population of Dougherty County is locked up at the county jail right now.

The county will likely have the highest per capita jail population in Georgia for a third straight year.  That large number of inmates is causing the county money problems during these tough economic times.

About 96,000 people live in Dougherty County, and this week the population at the jail one day was 957. One percent of the entire population behind bars.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul wants you to know that fighting crime and locking up criminals comes at a high cost.

This is the unloading area behind the jail where law enforcement brings people they have arrested. In recent weeks this has been one of the busiest spots in the county.

Sheriff Kevin Sproul said "We've had a very aggressive police presence in the community. Most recently with the Albany Police Department, Gang Task Force unit, the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit's made several arrests.

Sproul said "the way the economy's going, it's all factoring into this population increase."

It costs the county about 45 dollars a day to lock up every inmate. Usually crime starts to increase in April, and this year has been no exception. The Sheriff says the economy and unemployment is playing a big part.

Sproul said "I've interviewed several inmates who recently had jobs, that no longer work, They've got bills to pay, and they are going to survive. Do anything they can to survive. If it's robbing you or me, they'll rob us."

Now during the county's tough economic times, every inmate and every dollar adds up. But even worse, if the jail population stays this high until July 1st, the Sheriff will have to hire 8 more jailers to keep the proper inmate guard ratio.

Sproul said "I think if you talk to most taxpayers, most citizens would rather see them incarcerated than out there running the streets, roaming freely, creating more havoc."

To save money, Sheriff Sproul has kept inmates in fewer wings, but if the population continues to rise he will have to open others up. In 2008 and 2009 the jail population continued to rise through the summer until October. If it does again in 2010, that means the cost to the taxpayer will continue to grow as well.

Right now 62 percent of the people locked up in the Dougherty County jail are waiting to be tried for crimes they have been accused of. Sheriff Sproul says many can not pay their bail, even when it is just a few hundred dollars. So they stay in jail.

The Sheriff says he's working with Judges, Prosecutors, and county commissioners to keep the jail population as low as possible while still keeping the community safe.

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