County may use work release center as jail annex

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Coweta County’s Work Release Center, located at the Coweta County Prison on Selt Road, may be used to house certain low-level offenders from the Coweta County Jail.

Using the work release center to increase jail capacity was one of many facilities issues discussed Thursday at the annual work session meeting of the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.

Sheriff Mike Yeager said parts of the work release center could be used to house inmates who are in the jail for violation of probation and for child support issues.

Associate County Administrator Eddie Whitlock presented the “executive summary” of the facilities needs assessment.

“There are some issues going on with how to fully utilize the work release center,” said Whitlock. “There’s the possibility of using a portion of the facility there to deal with any kind of overcrowding issues we may have at the county jail.”

There are several projects planned at the jail. The demolition of the “old jail” building is set for this fall. The facility was formerly the home of the drug task force, but it has been used for storage since the opening of the eastside precinct. In June, plans are to begin remodeling the bonding area and there will be some additions to and remodeling of the patrol division and some new holding cells.

The creation of “video visitation” and the expansion of the infirmary are set for late this year or 2015. And “at some point down the road we’re possibly looking at a precinct on the west side,” Whitlock said.

Several years ago, a needs assessment was done at the jail. “At some point, we’re going to have to” expand the jail itself, according to Whitlock. But how much space will be needed and when isn’t known.

“There is a trend in the justice system of not housing” non-violent and violation of probation offenders, Whitlock said. And that is helping extend the life of the existing jail.

Whitlock said Yeager thinks the current jail might be adequate for about five more years. “But we certainly need to have a plan in place and have some funding identified for another housing unit at the current location.” The county has bought five acres adjacent to the jail and there will be space for two housing units.

Yeager said his needs assessment shows “we need two phases.”

Yeager said he’s talked for years about using part of the work release center as a jail annex. “If would be a great benefit to have those beds.” If the move could free up 50 “hard beds, we could go a little while longer.”

Yeager said that once the old jail is demolished, he’d like to see a security perimeter around the additional five acres.

The current jail was built in 1991. The jail was built quickly, under a federal judge’s order. “We’re finding that out, as we’re trying to do additions and renovations, that we’ve got a building that didn’t take but 10 months to build,” Yeager said.

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