Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
The Sheriff leads a tour of Augusta Prison, noting overcrowding, understaffing, and the need for major repairs

The Charles P. Webster Detention Middle in Augusta is tormented by understaffing, overcrowding and ongoing upkeep issues.

That was the message elected officers and media heard throughout Wednesday’s tour of the county jail. Sheriff Richard Roundtree and Capt. Charles Mitchell III of the detention middle led the tour.

Charles P. Webster Detention Center on Wednesday, Oct. 4, after a tour of the prison by local elected officials.

With courts backed up post-Covid, the power designed to carry folks awaiting trial or serving quick sentences has turn into extra akin to a jail, Roundtree stated. The inhabitants is about 1,200 folks, a number of hundred greater than the detention middle ought to maintain.

“Our common spends 4 years in jail. Now we have one inmate who’s been right here for six years,” Roundtree stated.

Among the many circumstances native officers noticed through the tour had been a couple of dozen confiscated improvised weapons, smashed lights and telephones, particular person cell doorways with broken locks or hinges, and spider net cracks in home windows.

Third District Commissioner Katherine Smith McKnight listens during an Augusta Commission meeting at the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building on Tuesday, October 3, 2023.

Commissioners Katherine Smith McKnight, who chairs the Public Security Fee, Jordan Johnson and Tony Lewis, joined Mayor Garnett Johnson on the tour.

“I assumed it could be useful not solely to the committee, but additionally to the media, to come back check out a few of the challenges which are being confronted with housing a bigger prisoner inhabitants than this facility was designed to carry,” Johnson advised The Chronicle after the tour. . “…It has been attention-grabbing to place our eyes on the security considerations you talked about not just for the inmates but additionally for individuals who work right here.”

Eyes on security considerations

When the Tour entered the F Pod, there was a definite scent considerably just like burnt paper.

“What you scent is K2. That is our largest downside,” Mitchell stated, noting that K2 is artificial marijuana.

Every chamber had a central space, round which had been a number of particular person cell blocks closed behind their very own door. Inside every constructing there was a standard space, bogs, telephones, and two flooring of cells. In Constructing E, two of the three telephones had been smashed.

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

“It is not secure,” stated Derek Williams, a resident of the adjoining cell.

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

Outdoors the pods, the tour handed single cells designated for folks with psychological well being issues, and naked concrete cells with mattresses on the ground. Some cells had bathrooms and sinks, however others didn’t. In these locations, inmates solely had in-floor drains for bogs, to forestall cells from flooding, Mitchell stated.

Addressing issues

After the tour, Roundtree stated his workplace is working to free everybody it might probably. He added that there are at the moment solely about 55 folks in jail who’re being held on misdemeanor expenses or serving misdemeanor sentences. The remaining face legal expenses in a backlogged judicial system – 85 of them face homicide expenses.

Recruitment is one other problem. Roundtree desires 40 deputies per shift however is averaging 19. With extra time and asking every individual within the sheriff’s workplace to choose one extra shift on the jail every month, whether or not they’re assigned to the jail or not, he can get 28-30 folks on the job. Rosy.

Ron Lampkin, interim director of central companies, additionally joined the tour. His division is chargeable for making repairs on the jail, and he estimates it takes about $400,000 to repair the locks in a single room. On prime of that, they’re steadily changing glass with plexiglass, changing sprinkler heads, fixing HVAC points, engaged on bathe and plumbing points, and extra.

“You are $5 million to $10 million simply to get issues so as,” he advised commissioners after the tour. “…As a lot as we will repair one factor, you should have one other state of affairs.”

Lampkin advised the Chronicle he believes he spends about $2-3 million a yr on upkeep on the jail. Roundtree desires so as to add one other cabin, which might price about $38 million, one thing he stated he started asking for eight years in the past.

She advised the Chronicle that McKnight helps constructing a brand new chamber.

“The place is overcrowded, and the place wants funding,” she stated. “…Now we have to finance the cash.”

Commissioner Johnson stated the difficulty extends past the jail itself to incorporate attempting to forestall folks from going to jail within the first place.

“I imagine the dialog round this spherical ought to focus on how we deal with the necessity for systemic change in our legal justice system whereas additionally evaluating the most suitable choice for funding the sheriff’s request,” he stated. “As a result of there’s positively a necessity, and we do not wish to flip our eyes to that.”

This text initially appeared on the Augusta Chronicle web site: Commissioners tour Augusta prison, review maintenance and overcrowding problems

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