Sheriff leads tour of Augusta jail, notes overcrowding, understaffing, need for major repairs

Understaffed, overcrowded and with fixed upkeep points, the Charles B. Webster Detention Heart in Augusta is having critical issues.

That was the message elected officers and the media heard on a tour Wednesday of the county jail. The tour was led by Sheriff Richard Roundtree and Capt. Charles Mitchell III of the detention middle.

With a post-COVID backup of the courts, a facility designed to carry folks awaiting path or serving temporary sentences has turn into extra akin to a jail, Roundtree mentioned. And the inhabitants of about 1,200 is a number of hundred over what the detention middle ought to be holding.

“We’re averaging 4 years an inmate. We have now one inmate who’s been right here six years,” Roundtree mentioned.

Among the many points native officers noticed on the tour included a show of a few dozen confiscated improvised weapons confiscated, wrecked lights and telephones, doorways on particular person cells with destroyed locks or hinges knocked askew, and spiderweb cracks in home windows.

Commissioner for district three Catherine Smith Mcknight listens during the Augusta commission meeting at the Augusta Richmond County Municipal Building on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023.

Commissioners Catherine Smith McKnight, who chairs the general public security committee, Jordan Johnson and Tony Lewis joined Mayor Garnett Johnson on the tour.

“I believed it could be useful for not solely the fee but in addition the media to return check out a number of the challenges which are being confronted with housing extra inmates than this facility was designed to carry,” Johnson instructed the Chronicle after the tour. “… It has been eye opening to truly put eyes to the security considerations as I discussed not solely to the incarcerated but in addition to those that work right here.”

Eyes on security considerations

Because the tour entered F Pod, there was a definite odor a bit like burnt paper.

“What you are smelling is K2. It is our greatest downside,” Mitchell mentioned, noting K2 is an artificial marijuana.

Every pod had a central space, round which had been a number of particular person blocks of cells locked behind their very own door. Inside every block was a standard space, showers, telephones, and two tales of cells. Within the E block, two of the three telephones had been smashed.

Whereas the doorway block itself locked, the locks on the person cell doorways had been damaged. Cell E-2, which had two residents, was opened for the tour — the overhead mild had been utterly destroyed, and there have been cracks within the glass of the door.

“This isn’t protected,” mentioned Derrick Williams, one of many residents of an adjoining cell.

In G Pod, the glass separating the E block from the central space had a collection of cracks that regarded like bullet impacts, and a bathe door was lacking.

Outdoors the pods, the tour handed single-occupancy cells for holding folks with psychological well being issues, naked concrete cells with mattresses on the ground. Some cells had bathrooms and sinks, however some had neither. In these, the occupants simply had a drain within the ground for bogs, Mitchell mentioned, to stop cells being flooded.

Addressing the issues

Following the tour, Roundtree mentioned his workplace works to launch everybody they will. At the moment there are nearly 55 folks within the jail being held for misdemeanor prices or serving misdemeanor sentences, he mentioned. The remaining are going through felony prices in a backlogged courtroom system — 85 going through homicide prices.

Hiring is one other problem. Roundtree desires 40 deputies per shift however is averaging 19. With additional time and requiring everybody within the sheriff’s workplace to choose up one further shift on the jail every month, whether or not or not they’re assigned to the jail, he can get 28-30 folks on a shift.

Ron Lampkin, the interim director of Central Companies, additionally joined the tour. His division is accountable for making repairs on the jail, and he estimates it takes about $400,000 to repair the locks in a single pod. Past that, they’re working steadily to switch the glass with plexiglass, changing sprinkler heads, fixing HVAC and heating points, engaged on showers and plumbing points and extra.

“You are taking a look at $5-10 million simply to get it so as,” he instructed commissioners after the tour. “… As quick as we will get one factor mounted, you might have one other state of affairs.”

Lampkin instructed the Chronicle he thinks he spends about $2-3 million yearly on upkeep on the jail. Roundtree desires so as to add one other pod, which might price about $38 million, one thing he mentioned he started asking for eight years in the past.

McKnight is backing the development of a brand new pod, she instructed the Chronicle.

“It is overcrowding, the place wants funding,” she mentioned. “… We have now bought to fund the cash.”

Commissioner Johnson mentioned that the problem extends past the jail itself to making an attempt to maintain folks from going to jail within the first place.

“I believe the dialog round this tour ought to be centered round how can we handle the necessity for systemic change in our prison justice system whereas additionally weighing the best choice to fund the sheriff’s request,” he mentioned. “As a result of actually there is a want, and we do not need to flip our eyes to that.”

This text initially appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Commissioners tour Augusta jail, see upkeep, overcrowding points

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