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Grand jury recommends new jail

By Walter Geiger The December term grand jury is designated annually as the investigative grand jury and does inspections of county facilities. This year’s group has recommended the construction of a new jail. The current jail, named for longtime sheriff J.C. Waller, was built in 1993. Incarcerated clients are tough on facilities and 23 is pretty old in jail years. The grand jury found the jail was orderly and well run. ’The staff was friendly and helpful. The inmates we encountered were respectful, busy and appeared to be well treated,’ the grand jurors wrote in their presentments. They noted, however, that the age of the jail prevents it from being a state of the art facility. They were greatly concerned about the jail control room and cited the safety of staff and inmates. The jurors cited the need for major technological upgrades and noted control panels and the cell to control room intercom system are ‘˜antiquated’. Other recommended areas for improvement included patrol car GPS systems, back-up power for the jail’s internal security system and inmate shower facilities. ’Given the age of the jail, the sheriff is doing a great job administering it. However, we recommend serious consideration be given to building a new jail facility as part of the next SPLOST budget,’ the jurors concluded. Sheriff Brad White said the jail is structurally sound but has major design flaw ’It has 1993 technology and that is old technology. Previous sheriffs and my team have kept it clean. There is money in the upcoming SPLOST for the control panel upgrade and repairs will be done to the intercom Jan. 3,’ White said. The design flaws include a too small booking room and a control room which requires jailers to rely on video to monitor inmates, he added. Additionally, all the plumbing is under the jail. That is a problem when inmates decide to flush items that they shouldn’t. ’We’ve had them flush entire blankets just to back up the plumbing. When it backs up it is a mess. New jails are built with the plumbing on the outside for easier access,’ White added. In a related development, the Lamar County commission agreed Dec. 20 to ask the state legislature to authorize creation of a county public facilities authority to handle such projects. The new animal shelter could be the first project overseen by the new authority. A new jail could also be in the works for the next SPLOST cycle.

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