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Jail OK’d to house juveniles

The Covington County Jail has earned certification as a short-term juvenile detention center – a benefit that will save the county approximately $13,000 annually in fuel, vehicle maintenance and salaries, Sheriff Dennis Meeks said Thursday.

Meeks said it has taken two years to complete the application and accreditation process. Before, once a juvenile were arrested, deputies were required to transport them to the Dothan Detention Facility. Sometimes, Meeks said it could mean multiple trips in one day because the county had no place to house the juveniles.

“Years ago, we were able to house juveniles, but that space was needed as the inmate population grew,” Meeks said. “Now, the (population) numbers are down but as time has gone by, the number of trips has grown.”

Beginning today, the new certification allows the jail to house four juveniles in a separate block, consisting of two cells with two beds each, for up to 72 hours. There will be no co-mingling of the sexes, and the juveniles will have no contact with adult inmates, he said.

Once incarcerated, the juveniles are required to make an appearance before a judge within 72 hours.

“For us that meant that we could pick up a juvenile at midnight, drive over to Dothan and come home, but then turn right around the next day and go back to pick up the juvenile and then back again,” Meeks said. “By having the opportunity to house the juveniles here, that will save at least two trips to Dothan per juvenile.”

Meeks said he estimated savings at $2,300 per year in fuel; $5,000 in salaries, and another $6,500 in “wear and tear” on vehicles.

“Most importantly, it’s going to keep our deputies in the county more,” he said.

Meeks said no hiring of additional jail personnel was required; however, current employees were required to become CPR and first-aid certified.

“This is a tremendous benefit to county,” he said of the certification. “The space (in the jail) was already there and this was a way to put it to a better use.”