By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

New jail for Escambia Co.?

County commission gives Sheriff Jackson permission to purchase land from city of Brewton


July 4, 2019

The Escambia County (Ala.) Commission has given Sheriff Heath Jackson the go-ahead to discuss the possibility of purchasing an 80-acre tract of land from the city of Brewton in hopes of building a new detention center.

During an administrative workshop Tuesday afternoon, Jackson told commissioners David Stokes, Brandon Smith and Karean Reynolds that an analysis of the existing facility by PH&J Architects of Montgomery showed nothing could really be done to upgrade and expand the current jail. Jackson said the final analysis should be ready by next week.

"We can't do anything with this jail," Jackson said. "We can't add on and building across the street is not an option."

Jackson said he had studied other sites and said using the city's industrial park was not an option. However, he did say an 80-acre partial across from Southern Pine Electric Cooperative on Highway 31 would be a good site. He said the Downing family originally donated 40 acres to the city and the city paid $250,000 for the other 40 acres. He also said he has spoken with Mayor Lovelace and City Clerk Alex McDowell about the possibility.

Jackson said his plans would be to construct the new jail toward the back of the property, away from Highway 31. He also said by building on the back on the property it would keep it out of eyes of the public.

He told commissioners that the location of the current jail allows people to simply walk up and toss in contraband to inmates.

"Our capacity is not shrinking," Jackson said. "We are continuing to grow and our liability continues to grow."

Jackson said the current facility was designed for 126 inmates and it's now housing between 275 and 340 every day. He also said if something isn't done, the federal government will eventually step in and the price tag would go up. He also said the current jail was designed to house 12 female inmates and as of Tuesday he had 65.

"I want to be able to move forward," Jackson said. "If the feds make us do it, they will make us spend more."

Jackson said he is proposing to build a 550 bed facility and increase the number of federal inmates being housed to help pay for the construction. He said the county currently receives $2.25 per day to house state inmates and $45 to $47 per day to house federal inmates. He added that the county currently gets about $1 million for housing up to 50 federal inmates and he'd like to move that number up to 200.

"That will help pay for most of this," Jackson said. "If we up the number of federal inmates it will help pay for the facility and take that burden off of the local tax payers. It helps the county."

Jackson also said it would take about nine months to have the jail plans drawn and another two years to construct. With too many unknowns and variables, no cost estimate has been made on a new facility.

"I don't want anything fancy, fancy, but something's that's secure and safe for inmates and the staff," he said. "I want as much property has possible to keep access to a minimum."

Commissioner Stokes recommended Jackson get with Mayor Lovelace to see if the county could get an option to purchase the land; preferably a 90 to 120-day option.

"Your'e one step closer with a location," Stokes said.


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