Warner Robins officials don’t want people taking a peek inside its new jail

April 3, 2013 

The construction of the new Warner Robins Law Enforcement Center has been a long process. After considering several sites -- including Jimmy Perkins Memorial Field and an old Food Max building on Russell Parkway -- the new LEC finally found a home along Watson and Armed Forces boulevards.

Last week, city officials and other community leaders got a look inside the new $10 million facility -- but the people -- taxpayers -- did not.

News media, including this newspaper, were not allowed to film or take pictures beyond the lobby of the facility. Who exactly gave that order is unknown, but there are several possible culprits including Mayor Chuck Shaheen, Police Chief Brett Evans, City Attorney Jim Elliott or Gary Lee, Redevelopment Agency executive director.

Lee told this newspaper’s reporter “Some of the rooms don’t need to be filmed. All I’m doing is following what was instructed.” Lee initially said the orders came from Chief Evans, but backed away from that claim and wouldn’t say who told him not to allow cameras.

When The Telegraph first asked the city attorney why cameras weren’t allowed, there was a debate over the Open Meetings law that allows members of council to take such tours without the public present. But then Elliott used as justification part of the Georgia Code that allows for nondisclosure of items that would “compromise security against sabotage or criminal or terrorist acts.”

Come on, man, that’s more than a stretch, but since they’ve gone down that road: Is there a dungeon in the new LEC? Are there secret rooms where inmates can be waterboarded ? Of course not, but there are more likely scenarios. Will the city’s leaders use the same strange logic to deny access to video surveillance in the facility if there is an inmate uprising or to quash claims of inmate abuse?

It is the public’s right to know how its government spent ten million of their dollars. Funny, those who find themselves incarcerated will have more information about the facility than the people who paid for it.

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