Hello from the Jackson County Jail. I am Captain Dan Penland and I will be providing monthly updates on the Corrections Division as Sheriff Falls has previously discussed.
Here is a quick history on our jail and how it has grown and changed over the years. The Jackson County Jail was opened in 1981 with 176 beds. In 1982, the capacity was increased to 190 beds. In 2005, we added additional beds to each cell (double bunking) increasing the population cap to 230. In February 2014, we remodeled former office space into additional inmate housing, which provided an additional 62 beds (total capacity 292). In November 2015, the basement beds were closed for a variety of reasons, previously outlined by Sheriff Falls. Our current capacity is 230 inmates.
The Jackson County Jail was built with a “linear” design, known for long corridors with cells on either side. Due to the design, anytime a deputy moves to observe one cell, another cell is left unsupervised. Most experts now recommend avoiding a linear design for any new jail construction because of the additional staff required to adequately supervise inmates.
Most new jails are designed in a “podular” fashion because of the more efficient layout. In a podular jail, the inmate housing is built around a central observation area. This allows one deputy in the control room to constantly observe all inmate cells at any time. This also requires less inmate movement.
Because newer podular facilities are designed more efficiently, they provide for a better overall jail operation. With this in mind, we believe with a properly designed facility, we could double our current inmate population without increasing the number of deputies assigned to supervise the inmates.
We have been faced with jail overcrowding for more than 30 years. In 1985, Jackson County was sued by several inmates who filed complaints about jail overcrowding. Statistically speaking, a county with the population of Jackson County requires a minimum of a 600 bed jails to effectively deal with the local crime.
Even with a greater jail capacity, we know the value of having programs in in place to help reduce overcrowding in the jail. We currently utilize such programs and look for ways to make them stronger.
These include programs that address:
Pretrial release for inmates who qualify
Assisting inmates with mental illness
Available drug and alcohol treatment
Jail overcrowding is frustrating for everyone. At last report, there were 11,000 active arrest warrants to be served in Jackson County. Even with a larger jail, it simply wouldn’t be possible to house every one of those offenders in jail until the completion of their case(s).
We strive to operate the jail as efficiently and professionally as possible, while looking for new ways to improve. We are thankful for the community partnerships we have developed – many agencies in Jackson County work together to keep the citizens of Jackson County safe.
Captain Dan Penland