Expansion: By the numbers
• $1 million: Amount the county has allocated in SPLOST funding for architectural work.
• 120: Number of additional beds the expansion would allow in the jail.
• 310: Maximum number of beds the jail could house.
• 260-290: Average number of prisoners the jail houses.
• $41.60: Daily cost to house an inmate.
In January, a Liberty County Grand Jury committee found the Liberty County jail to be “well maintained and spotlessly clean,” according to a legal notice run in the Feb. 9 issue of the Coastal Courier. However, the committee also expressed concern over the facility’s ability to accommodate an increasing inmate population. The grand jurors recommended county officials and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office stay committed to expanding the jail in the near future.
Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown said the county has allocated about $1 million in current SPLOST funding for architectural work, including construction drawings, on a proposed jail expansion. Funding for an actual 120-bed expansion would have to be raised in the next SPLOST cycle if approved by voters, Brown said. He said the next special local options sales tax cycle is slated to begin in 2015.
“Architectural work takes about a year,” Brown said. “The reason it’s so complicated is it will be more than just putting a pod in place. There would need to be other expansions made to the jail, including a kitchen enlargement.”
He said there are other funding options, such as the county possibly could issue bonds to fund construction (should a new SPLOST be approved) and start on a jail expansion before sales-tax revenues actually are collected.
The county expanded the jail five years ago by 120 beds and added a work-release area, Brown said. He said the county has developed a “footprint” for continued expansion.
LCSO Chief Deputy Keith Moran said the jail has a 310-bed maximum capacity and houses on average between 260-290 prisoners. The jail’s budget was around $4.6 million last year, Moran said.
“It costs about $41.60 a day to house an inmate,” he said. “We do house for other agencies.”
“We do get reimbursed from the state,” Brown said, referring to a fee Georgia pays county jails to house state prisoners.
The chief deputy said the jail houses on average 10-20 federal prisoners and 10 prisoners on average from Fort Stewart. The number of outside prisoners the jail houses is predicated on the number of county prisoners being housed, Moran said.
He said an increase in inmates translates to a need for more guards. Fortunately, state prisons recently have “opened up more,” Moran said, and therefore pressure to house state prisoners has been taken off county jails across the state.
This was not the case two years ago, according to a June 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report. The BJS reported the number of state prisoners in Georgia was up 1.2 percent in 2009.
The state had 52,719 prisoners in 2008, compared with 53,371 in 2009, according to BJS data. In 2000, Georgia’s state prisons held 44,232 prisoners, the bureau reported.
“We have about 24 female inmates currently,” Moran said. “There are two pods. Each pod has a female area and two classifications of prisoners — felony and misdemeanor.”
Inmates convicted of misdemeanors generally serve sentences from one month to less than one year, the chief deputy said. Felons sentenced to one year or more may remain at the jail until they are transferred to a state prison, he said. Felony suspects may be housed at the county jail while they are awaiting trial, Moran added.
Proposed jail expansions are based on the yearly average of prisoners housed and take a lot of advance planning, he said.
“We’re talking about a three-year turnaround from the initial approval of construction to actual construction,” Moran said.