South Georgia jail a full house - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia jail a full house

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Lee County-At any moment, a Lee County prisoner could start costing the county up to $45 more a day.

"When we start looking at the number 80 is when we feel like we pretty well have to move somebody out," said Chief Dennis Parker.

Move them to a jail in another county, because this jail is full.

"We stay over capacity," he said.

So it's not unusual for some prisoners to have beds on the floor. The Lee County jail could easily be added on to. Expansion plans have been drawn up, but the County Commission hasn't seriously discussed implementing them.

Parker said it needs to at least double in size to 150 beds, but even more room would give them the opportunity to sell the space to other counties and make money with the facility.

The biggest change in Lee County's jail population has happened in the women's dormitory. When the jail opened in 1999, there were five women in the jail. Monday, there were 18.

"That even surprises me that we would have that many females in jail in Lee County."

Almost all of the women are here on drug-related charges. The drug is usually methamphetimine.

"There's so many people that are making it, that it's become an epidemic in our area," he said.

An epidemic that's plaguing many communities and an epidemic that's driving up the cost of medical care. When users are arrested, they're often close to death.

"Sometimes we have to immediately load them on an ambulance and get them to the hospital they're in such critical shape."

Along with recently approving more than $100,000 extra for boarding prisoners, county leaders also provided $73,000 extra to the sheriff's office for medical costs. They had already budgeted $200,000.

Unfortunately, there's no simple solution to the drug problem. But sometimes being behind bars save their lives.

"There's a lot of people that are still alive because the system stopped them and housed them in jail for a while."

Until Lee County can build more room, this full house will continue to cost taxpayers more money every year.

posted by brannon.stewart@walb.com