Jail overcrowding at "crisis point" in Lee Co. - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Jail overcrowding at "crisis point" in Lee Co.

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Sheriff Rachals Sheriff Rachals
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LEESBURG, GA (WALB) -

The Lee County Sheriff says jail overcrowding has reached a crisis point, that could begin to affect public safety.  Lee County is having to house inmates in other county jails, or  have Judges reduce sentences to release inmates early. 

The Sheriff is now calling on County Commissioners to take action.The  jail  begins the day with one open bed, but they know more inmates will need to be housed before the day is through. Tough decisions will have to be made.

"You can't herd them in there like cattle," Sheriff Reggie Rachals said.

The Lee County Jail was built in 1999 with 74 beds.  They converted the indoor recreation room to house more inmates, and now have 90 beds.  But they still have to use boats, inflatable beds to keep the inmates from having to sleep on the concrete floor. The Sheriff says with crime increasing in the county, public safety could soon be affected by jail overcrowding.

"We need to do something about it to keep the county safe and continue to keep it safe," Rachals said.

When the jail was built, there were five and ten year plans to add on to meet these demands, but those plans were skipped.  The plans for additional pods are ready, waiting on County Commissioners to give the go ahead. Sheriff Rachals says it's way

"Even if we were to build what was in the five year plan or the ten year plan, time it gets built four years down the road or better, we're already behind again."

Crime victims expect criminals to serve their sentence, but everyday Sheriff's officials and Judges weigh letting inmates out early to make room for others.  Now the Sheriff is asking County Commissioners to come visit the jail, and see issue first hand.

 "See what it's all about. See what the deputies put up with. And the jailers put up with.  Come out, visit the jail.  Sit around and watch. And you'll see what it's all about. See what we do and how we deal with it."

Sheriff Rachals says with continued growth in Lee County, crime will steadily continue to increase, and the jail overcrowding issue cannot wait. 

The annual budget for the Lee County jail is $1.8 million.  The estimate for the first jail addition construction is around $3.5 million.

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