Georgia's county jails reach record breaking population - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia's county jails reach record breaking population

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August 26, 2002

by Ashley Harper

Valdosta - The Lowndes County Jail has a holding capacity of 600 inmates. Sheriff Ashley Paulk never thought the jail would reach that number, but it looks like it may soon.

A new addition to the jail is in the works to accommodate the increasing number of inmates.

"When I was elected sheriff in 1993, we were just over 100 and now that number has almost quadrupled," said Paulk.

Over the past ten years, the Lowndes County Jail has seen a steady increase in inmates, adding to Georgia's all time high jail population. This month, the number of Georgia inmates increased by almost 500, bringing the total to nearly 31,000.

Law officials say Georgia's crime rate is actually on the decrease. But the number of inmates in county jails is still steadily rising.

"When you keep them off the streets your crime rates are going to go down because you have repeat offenders who aren't going to go our and be arrested for committing the same crime," said Paulk.

Law enforcement says the main reason county jails are so crowded is a lack of legal representation for minor crimes. According to the Southern Center for Human Rights, nine out of ten people charged with a crime in Georgia can't afford a lawyer. Last year, the state paid over 6 million dollars towards indigent defense.

"The can get a lawyer appointed but that takes a long time," said Paulk.

But with a new addition to the jail, local law enforcement hope Lowndes County can avoid the capacity overload its nearing.

posted at 3:00pm by Ashley Harper