Feds back at Terrell County Jail - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Feds back at Terrell County Jail

November 19, 2003

Dawson-- Federal investigators inspect the Terrell County Jail. Jail employee Sandra Walker says, "I'm sure they will be back, we just don't know when." They're checking to see if jailers have improved conditions there.

The U.S. Justice Department has been keeping a close eye on the Terrell County jail since 1995. An investigation found the 50-year-old jail to be inadequate. Since then, the County has made improvements. But, the Justice Department wants the jail to close.

U.S. Justice Department investigators would not allow our cameras to follow them on a tour of the Terrell County Jail. A jail employee says they've requested a lot of paperwork. Sandra Walker says, "They are basically looking at medical records, past incidents that have taken place in our jail, any escapees, suicides, things of that nature we have had here at the Terrell County Jail."

Justice Department investigators were here six months ago. Since then, an inmate committed suicide, an incident the Justice Department questioned. Today, the investigators refused to talk with us, but John Cole Vodicka, Director of the Prison and Jail Project that spurred the federal investigation in 1995, says not much has changed at the jail, "It's never been at a point that anyone can say they really are making an effort to make it a constitutionally sound facility and the Justice Department has given this community every chance to do what's right."

In December 2002, after a Terrell County grand jury found the jail to be inhumane and unsafe. There were sewage and plumbing problems, poor lighting, exposed electrical wire and cramped spaces. The Chief Deputy says, after today's examination, Justice Department officials will suggest improvements, "They suggest improvements we try to do what we can do."

We do know one suggestion--the Justice Department wants the county to start work on hiring an architect to build a new jail. County Attorney Ed Collier says the county has not entered into an agreement with the Justice Department about building a new jail. But, Collier says the jail's design is simply outdated, and there are only so many renovations that can be made to modernize it.

Posted at 4:17 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com