PELHAM, GA (WALB) -
The City of Pelham says it will close a jail complex it bought from the state, by the end of the month.
The city council voted unanimously last Thursday to close the Mize Street Detention Center, which housed inmates from other parts of Georgia.
For two decades, the demand for jail space was so high that Pelham began housing inmates from across the state, but changes in sentencing has decreased that need, and the jail population.
"The need now has just gone away, and so it's just no longer feasible to maintain it," said Chief Nealie McCormick.
"It gets to a point where the charges to those municipalities that we're housing inmates for does not meet or exceed the expenses for running this facility," said Jim Hedges.
Cities paid around $30 to $40 per day per inmate to Pelham when overcrowding was a big issue in the state, but now, the detention center is only at 30% capacity.
"We're very close to break even, and if we lose any more inmates, you're in the hole," said Hedges.
A proactive step to avoid a huge financial loss. But the closing will also mean the 20 jailers will also be out of a job. "I think the prospect for them to find other jobs is pretty good because there's always a need for jailers. Jails usually run short of those," said McCormick.
Violent, career criminals are sentenced to prison, while lower-level, non-violent offenders can be supervised in the community. The Department of Community Affairs says the April 2008 average jail occupancy rate in Georgia was 93%. As of April 2015, that rate has dropped to 72%.
Inmate populations have also declined at the Mize Street location and in other corrections facilities largely due to this change in sentencing.
The current inmates will be transferred to their original jurisdiction and the Pelham inmates will be taken to the Mitchell County jail.