According to Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Larry Wilson, who serves as the jail administrator, the facility is seriously undermanned.
On paper, there are 18 officers per shift.
“But with vacation time, holidays, sick leave, things of that nature, it brings my officers down to 10 to 11 people per shift,” Capt. Wilson said. “Right now with the current jail in the way it is set up ... I have 11 posts that have to be manned at all times, no ifs, ands or buts.”
These posts include booking, the computerized control center that controls all the doors, and positions directly supervising the inmates. Booking, for example, requires three to four people, and according to Capt. Wilson, they’re lucky to have two.
The average inmate population ranges from 450 to 500, creating a ratio that is “way out of bounds,” Capt. Wilson said.
He said he lacks the personnel to handle things over and above the everyday happenings of prison life, such as fights, court appearances or visitations.
“Anything out of the ordinary from these is that much worse,” he said.
County Manager William P. Wilson Jr. said the county is trying to remedy the problem.
“We did give them additional slots last year,” he said.
The six positions were intended for use in a work-release program in fiscal year 2007, but the program did not grow to the expected size owing to a change in the administration at the jail and a shortage of qualified inmates. In fiscal year 2008, the six positions were transferred to the jail itself.
“These positions I’ve already been using,” Capt. Wilson said. “They never left.”
And even with those six positions filled, Capt. Wilson says, he still does not have enough staff.
The overcrowding of the detention center exacerbates the problems with personnel. When the prison was first constructed in 1984, its original capacity was “somewhere around 250 to 300,” Capt. Wilson said.
Although new inmate housing has been added to the jail since then, problems remain.
“It has helped in relieving some of the overcrowding,” he said. But, “I cannot put the extremely violent felons down there (in the new housing),” owing to the more vulnerable position of the supervising deputies, who sit at desks near tables where the inmates sit. The more dangerous inmates live in two sections of the prison, where the guards are more protected, and those areas are particularly overcrowded.
“Right now, in ‘A’ cell, it is supposed to house 24 inmates,” he said. “Currently, there are 13 more inmates in that cell than what is supposed to be.”
It is not just the officers whose lives are made more difficult by the crowding.
“I have 59 inmates sleeping on the floor,” Capt. Wilson said.
The jail’s kitchen has not been upgraded since the facility was constructed, despite increases in population.
“It usually takes anywhere, once the meals are cooked, it takes approximately two hours to get the food to the cells and be done,” he said.
Capt. Wilson estimates that the jail needs a kitchen with “twice the size and equipment” of the current kitchen.