A long-awaited jail construction project in Geneva County may be completed early next year.
“I do believe we can safely say the construction is ahead of schedule,” Geneva County Sheriff Tony Helms said. “Those working on the jail are working continuously. I believe the roof will be completed this week. Once the roof is completed, the dried in phase will be complete. That will leave the outside brick and inside work.”
“Having a new jail built has been a project in the making for a very long time, and I am extremely glad to see the hard work and the progress made on the jail every day,” Helms said.
With an increase in crime over the years, Geneva County’s lockup, like other Wiregrass jails, has seen an spike in the number of inmates housed in the current facility, built to accommodate fewer than 50 inmates in the 1960s.
When the jail gets overcrowded, Helms contacts nearby jails with available space to house inmates from Geneva County.
“The new jail is designed with 160 to 166-person capacity,” Helms said. “Hopefully, as long as the crime rates don’t continue to increase, we will have enough space to house male and female inmates. But all jails are seeing an increase in population. As long as there is crime in the area, every jail will see an increase in population.”
A new jail provides three huge benefits. The new jail will be ADA compliant, offer advanced security, and will bring additional jobs to Geneva County.
In July, Helms confirmed two jail inmates had gotten out of the dome area of the jail, and were headed to fenced-in area of the grounds trying to escape when a deputy caught the inmates before they attempted to climb the razor wire fence.
“It was determined the inmates had located a piece of metal and fashioned a tool to be used as a small screwdriver,” Helms said. “With the tool the inmates were able to remove part of the door lock.”
The age of current jail and its lack of some security features played a role in the escape attempt, Helms said.
“In the past we have had suspects run out the door of the booking area due to the area not being secure,” Helms said. “We have also had inmates escape when a door does not lock properly. Unfortunately, this is a concern for every jail. But, hopefully with the new jail being a modern- constructed facility using up-to-date technology and equipment, we can provide a more secure facility for our community.”
Additional correctional officers scheduled to be hired once the new jail is open, will also improve security, Helms said.