By: Rhiana Huckins Email
By: Rhiana Huckins Email

There aren't any definite plans to build an extension yet but Houston County officials say it’s a project that must eventually happen.

"Our capacity has gone down from what it was; right now we are around 440 inmates," says Sheriff Andy Hughes

It may be down, but the current head count at the Houston County jail is still 29 more than its 411 inmate capacity.

Last year, the average number of inmates was 478.

When the jail was completed 3 years ago, there was room left for expansion, but it’s not a project that can be completed overnight.

"We do not have any preliminary figures right now, the county commission has already contacted an architectural firm about doing the addition to the jail, and maybe in the next year or so, we will be looking at the jail," says Sheriff Hughes.

The jail commander has also been scouting out ideas from jails in neighboring counties in Alabama and Florida for future plans.

If court costs are increased, the Houston County commission would be forced to put some of that money toward operational costs like medical coverage for inmates and correctional officers.

"Back earlier this year, we had over 500 people in our jail, thanks to our employees and the judicial system, we have gotten that down now closer to 400. We got a new judge coming on, that means hopefully more cases will be tried in a more expeditious manner, so we think the numbers are going to remain relatively low, which means we could push the new pod back a few years," says Mark Culver, Chairman of the Houston County Commission

And even if some time is bought, Sheriff Hughes says overpopulation is one of those things that sometimes just cannot be avoided.

"It never seems like you can build a county jail large enough so if you build it for 500, you will have 515 inmates."

Of course, even though the current number of inmates is not skyrocketing over the 411 inmate capacity, at any given time, the population could escalate.

Next Monday, commissioners will vote on the increased court cost request.

They could receive up to $150,000 to go toward jail operations.

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