Commission forced to take strong look at new Lauderdale County Detention Center

FLORENCE, Ala. - The warning bells have been rung in Lauderdale County. Jail overcrowding has reached the point in which a plan has to be instituted, or more prisoners will have to be released.

In 2015, the Lauderdale County Detention Center averaged more than 220 inmates a day.

During a recent fire marshal inspection, the jail was housing more than 260. Trouble is the detention center was only designed for 203.

In the spring, Sheriff Rick Singleton suggested to the County Commission they re-purpose a portion of the Work Release Center to house minimum security inmates.

“We got to look for other sites,” stated Singleton. “The most logical, right next door at the Work Release Center. But that is just a temporary fix.”

Singleton and other members of the judicial side of the courthouse say it’s time for a long-term fix.

The sheriff is suggesting the county build a new 350 to 400 bed facility. He said the current jail just wasn’t designed to deal with these types of numbers.

“It might be good for another five or ten years and if we are that close to having to build a new facility with all of the overcrowding issues we’ve got any way, to me it’s the logical thing and most reasonable thing is to start now the planning process of building a new detention center,” Singleton explained.

Courthouse officials say due to the overcrowding at the detention center, more and more criminals are being released to make room for incoming inmates. That’s something Singleton wants to stop.

Sheriff Singleton estimates a new detention center will cost the county between $12 and $16-million to construct. The current detention center was built in the mid-1990’s.