AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree says the Charles B. Webster Detention Center is bursting at the seams with inmates but staffing is so low, mandatory overtime is required.
After spending about two hours inside the Webster Detention Center, city leaders saying what is taking place, should not be: an overcrowded, but understaffed jail. Officials say in one high-security block, none of the locks on the cell doors are working properly.
“This is unacceptable, I feel like it is unacceptable to see what I saw today,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith-McKnight.
“It gives us a better understanding of actually what the Sheriff’s needs are looking at the outside you could never tell what goes on, on the inside,” said Commissioner Tony Lewis.
A possible solution to the problem has been brought up, but it could cost tens of millions of dollars.
Commissioners have approved 300 thousand dollars to fix the cell door locks problem. But for the overcrowding problem, Sheriff Roundtree wants city leaders to approve a new pod that would provide another 190 beds.
That new pod is estimated to cost $38 million.
“We tried to plan for it in the last two SPLOST [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax] packages it was denied now unfortunately we got to the point where were in a crisis situation,” said Sheriff Roundtree.
City leaders know there are currently no sales tax dollars for a new jail pod, but they say that have a better understanding of the the need for one.
“When you have the inmate population that we have, and the sheriff is facing these challenges we have to meet these challenges even if it means building a new pod,” said Commissioner Lewis.
But how will the city pay for it?
“Well, you know that’s going to be a conversation that myself and the commission has as to how we create a mechanism pay for it we’re at the point now it needs to be paid for,” said Mayor Garnett Johnson.
“I wanted to give them an opportunity to look at it and see it we’re just not throwing money at a situation this is something as a matter of safety for this community for this community,” said Sheriff Roundtree.
A new jail pod is years away. But one pressing need at the jail is to do something about the old cell block lights; they are not secure and inmates are tearing them apart and turning the pieces into jail weapons. Officials say they have confiscated 14 shanks in the past 2 days.