Bursting at the seams: Lee Co. jail

Bursting at the seams: Lee Co. jail
Sheriff Rachals
Sheriff Rachals

LEESBURG, GA (WALB) - Ever since it was built, the Lee County jail has been overcrowded. Now some community officials are teaming up to try to find a solution.

82 inmates are currently housed at the Lee County jail, and seven more are being housed at the jail in Turner County.

Overcrowding is a problem Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals deals with every year. "We are maxed out," he said. "It's gotten worse over the years. The first year this jail was taken over, it was overcrowded."

The jail was originally built in 1999 for 76 inmates. But this space was converted from an indoor recreation room to another pod with more beds.

The jail can now hold about 90 inmates, but Sheriff Rachals says they try to keep fewer than that. "We try to keep it at a low number due to the fact of the overflow that you may be bringing in from different cases."

At one point in October 2014, they had 130 inmates. "It was so crowded during one of those times we had the high numbers that we were having to pull out the boats. That's a bed that blows up, an air mattress type thing that they have to lay on," said Rachals.

While building a new facility could be a good solution, it's costly.

Sheriff Rachals says it's also inevitable. "It's a lot of money, but which is cheaper in the long haul? You're housing your own inmates in your own jail with your own people, or sending them out constantly to a different facility and being charged for that rate, being charged for healthcare."

Currently, Lee County pays $35 a day per inmate, plus medical costs if needed, to house them at the Turner County jail.

The Judicial Review Committee will meet soon to evaluate the situation and hopefully find other solutions. The meeting is Thursday, March 19th at 3:00 at the Chamber of Commerce office. And if you're wondering why the jail is pink, the Sheriff had it painted that pepto-bismol color a few years ago, after learning that the color can create a calming environment.

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