Atkinson County grand juries have said since 2006 that the county needs a new jail. The current grand jury is the first to say the jail is unfit for human habitation and call for its demolition.
“That’s the first time they’ve put it so bluntly,” Sheriff David Moore said.
The 18-bed south Georgia jail has cell doors that are extremely hard to open and close after years of welding on patches. There is raw sewage on the floor at times, and the sheriff and others have described the lighting as almost non-existent.
The grand jurors issued the jail inspection committee report April 1 and urged the County Commission to address the issue at its next meeting and come up with an immediate solution.
Moore has some sympathy for the county commissioners, saying they just took office Jan. 1 and that jail conditions have remained unaddressed for years.
“It isn’t their fault,’’ he said, “but it’s their problem now.”
Built in 1976, the jail “is just completely worn out,’’ Moore said.
“The concrete floor has big cracks, the plumbing is completely shot. It leaks profusely,’’ he said.
Getting around the bad plumbing compromises security, he said.
“If a toilet breaks in one cell, I have to leave cell doors open so they can go next door,’’ he said. “When you put out a cot for a drunk, you have to leave a cell door open so he can get to the toilet,’’ Moore said.
Even with cell doors open, inmates are still locked behind the main door, but with only one jailer at a time, Moore said as bluntly as the grand jurors, “It is not safe for my employees.”
Moore said he wants to avoid a lawsuit over jail conditions, but a solution won’t be easy.
“We’re poor. We’re broke,’’ he said of the county. “Timber and [farm] fields don’t generate much tax base.”
The once-thriving mobile home manufacturing industry that boosted local property and sales taxes is about gone, he said.