BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Sheriff Alfonzo Williams is calling on commissioners to take action to address what he says are serious issues in the Burke County Jail.

“It presents a safety hazard to our inmates and employees alike,” Williams said.

Inside the jail, Williams says the bars of the outdated cells are a safety concern because they make it easy for inmates to assault staff.

“They can reach through the bars and grab hold of them. They can assault them with urine and feces which happens,” Williams says.

Sheriff Williams said they don’t have the space to house enough inmates, so people with certain misdemeanor offenses are booked and released.

It means they also have to house people with misdemeanors with violent offenders.

“A person in jail on a felony theft should not be housed next to a violent felon, but that is happening because the lack of space causes us to have to do that,” Williams says.

He said a new jail would cost nearly $27 million, but he’s asking the commission for the funding because the jail poses a serious safety threat to inmates and employees.

“Its detrimental to our ability to attract, recruit, train and retain qualified personnel. That’s why we’re experiencing shortages and that’s why we have safety concerns. The county and the sheriff are going to be sued if we don’t do something.”

Williams said if a new jail is not built, the county will have to pay for inmates to be transported and housed at jails in other counties, which is very costly.

He hopes funding will be approved to make the jail safer not only for inmates and employees, but also the community.

“Equally important is to keep this community safe and put away those that we don’t want among us,” Williams said.