More capacity needed at jail

Published 12:23 am Thursday, September 26, 2013

Despite questions about the housing of inmates in the Covington County Jail by area municipalities, Commission Chairman Bill Godwin said Wednesday there is still a need for jail addition.

In June, the commission announced the need for additional space to house women inmates. In August, commissioners voted to hire PH&J Architects for the project. A preliminary description of the project describes a 42-bed, two-cellblock facility with a nurse’s station, washroom and storage area.

But to cover the cost of jail operations – and the construction of the new addition – the county commission charges area municipalities such as Andalusia, Opp, Florala, Red Level, River Falls, Lockhart and Gantt for housing. In August, that rate was set at $24 per day for housing, which is paid to the county, and $7 per day for meals, which is paid to the sheriff.

To date, Opp and Florala have publicly announced they are exploring a cheaper housing alternative for inmates arrested on misdemeanor charges with the Geneva County Commission. Andalusia is considering other options and believes its previous contract with the county limits changes that can be made to how much the county charges.

Godwin said Thursday that since negotiations are ongoing, he couldn’t comment on the contracts – or how much money the county is expected to collect.

“Right now, I’m not discussing the jail contracts because we are in consultations with Opp and Andalusia,” Godwin said. “We’ve got questions for our attorney on the contracts and until we get that answered, I don’t feel free to discuss things.”

When asked about the need for the addition if those inmate numbers are reduced, Godwin said the need remains.

Jail records show that of the 223 people housed the county jail, 38 of those were women. The current women’s facility is designed to house 24, Godwin said.