Lauderdale County Sheriff says jail overcrowding puts deputies in a dangerous situation

The current detention center can hold 203 people. They currently have 328 inmates in the jail, which has lead to a serious overcrowding situation.

Posted: Sep. 11, 2018 3:10 PM
Updated: Sep. 11, 2018 6:55 PM

Some Lauderdale County citizens told WAAY 31 they would support a property tax increase to fund a new jail.

Lauderdale County Sheriff, Rick Singleton, said they are at a crisis point with jail overcrowding. The current facility can hold 203 inmates but they currently have about 328 inmates, creating a dangerous situation for deputies. Singleton said they must get the funding for a new jail or a federal judge could step in.

Singleton said it could take at least two years before citizens would vote on a property tax increase to get the funds for a new jail. Even if it were to pass, it could take an additional three years to build the new jail.

"We have to step up to our responsibilities as a society to provide safe quarters for these prisoners," said Daniel Heideger, who lives in Lauderdale County.

Heideger said he would support a property tax increase to fund a new $35 million jail in the county.

"It's one of those things we as a society just have to pick up the tab for," said Heideger.

It's unclear how much the property tax increase would be at this time but Singleton said a five mil property tax increase could pay for an almost 600 bed jail. Other citizens tell us they would support the increase if it mean't keeping offenders off the streets.

"I have a friend of mine who used to be a police officer and he said it's been at crisis point off and on the past several years," said Lauderdale County resident, Zachary Riley. " I think it would be good."

Singleton said they are averaging 298 inmates a day at the current facility. He said when you have 20 or more inmates into a cell designed for only eight people tempers flare and that puts everyone in danger.

"We had several fights over the weekend among the inmates. It's dangerous for the inmates and the corrections deputies that work down there," said Singleton.

The sheriffs department is currently building a 56 bed women's dormitory next to the detention center to house female inmates and free up some space. That building is expected to be done later this year, but the sheriff told me it's only a temporary fix.

Singleton said he wants to hear from citizens and their opinions on a possible tax increase to pay for a new jail. He plans to address the Lauderdale County Commission at their next meeting.

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