There has been a large increase in the number of inmates being housed at the Chattooga County Jail. According to records from the Sheriffs Department on Friday there were 117 inmates in the custody of the Chattooga County Sheriffs Department with 98 being housed in the Chattooga County Jail.
According to a Federal Court Order handed down in 1984 the Chattooga County Jail is not supposed to house more than 47 inmates. The court order states: “The inmate population of the Chattooga County jail shall not exceed 47 inmates except that in emergency situations the jail may house 57 inmates. The population cap of 47 inmates shall not be exceeded for more that 20 days per calendar year. At no time shall any inmate be required to sleep on the floor.”
The court order that was handed down 24 years ago when Gary McConnell was Sheriff and Pete Denson was County Commissioner, was in response to a law suite filed by jail inmates regarding conditions in the Chattooga County Jail. Since that time the issue of a new jail has been brought up several times, most recently by former Chattooga County Commissioner Mike Dawson. Dawson was met with fierce opposition by residents who did not want their taxes raised to pay for a new jail.
Current Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters has expressed his concern about the number of inmates being housed at the Chattooga County jail. Winters told AM 1180 Chattooga County Radio that he does not want the jail to be a liability issue for the county at this time.
Should Chattooga County be forced to build a jail, it could cost millions for a new facility – money that the county does not have at this time and would mean a substantial increase in property taxes to county residents.
Chattooga County Sheriff John Everett told AM 1180 Chattooga County Radio that the reason for the increased number of inmates at the jail is due to a large number of people that are due in court in the next couple of weeks. Everett stated that the number of inmates at the jail would go back down after the upcoming court session.
Everett stated that he has been able to follow the court ordered guidelines that require the Sheriffs Department to keep Sex Offenders separated from the general population of the jail and that at no time has the Sheriffs Department kept women inmates in the facility for an extended period of time.