Sheriff David Davis took media representatives on a tour Tuesday of portions of Bibb County’s nearly 40-year-old jail.
Davis is in agreement with a recent grand jury recommendation that the current facility needs to be expanded, or replaced with a new jail.
“The jail is not collapsing or falling down,” Davis said. “The grand jury found some issues that were truly not surprising to us who work here.”
The grand jury, which has statutory authority to inspect the jail, noted areas with ventilation problems, mold and other concerns.
“But for the greater good of the community, greater good of the facility and development and all of those different factors, it is time to get it in the minds of the community that some day, a decision will be made to perhaps move and build a new facility some place else,” he said.
One area that should be considered for a new jail, Davis said, is the area just below downtown around Sixth and Seven streets.
“It would behoove us to look in that area because it’s still sort of in the downtown area,” Davis said. “It’s still close to the court facilities and it helps with transportation ... (and) keeps the jail in a more central location.
“But that’s a conversation to be had at a later time whenever the decision is made, OK, we’re going to really get serious about moving the jail or building a new facility,” he said.
He suggested consideration of funds from a special purpose local sales tax option — once the current one expires — should the decision be made to construct a new jail.
If a new jail were built, the current facility would likely be demolished to make room for development, Davis said.
“It’s kind of hard to re-purpose a correctional facility if we decide to abandon this place,” Davis said. “This real estate — we occupy about two-and-a-half blocks in this part of downtown — so, you can imagine with the development that’s going in other parts of downtown, what types of residential, retail, business area that could be used here.”
Grand jurors noted wear and tear, missing ceiling tiles and light covers in one older section of jail. In another, they saw “incomplete ventilation, inadequate lighting and substandard equipment.” Additionally, they saw damaged steel tables and seats.
Maintenance was already in the works before the visit, with a $120,000 worth of shower refurbishment planned for March, Davis said. A new camera and door system are also under purchase negotiation.
Telegraph archives were used in this report.