LINCOLN COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - The Lincoln County Jail is used to keeping law breakers in check; however four years ago the jail itself came under fire from the state of Tennessee.
“We were built to house 118 inmates,” explained Lincoln County Sheriff, Murray Blackwelder. “And now we have between 130-150 a day.”
The facility was built in 1990 and now they suffer from overcrowding. Once the state cracked down on the capacity restrictions the county committed to a $7.2 million dollar expansion and renovation.
“A sheriff is never happy to see a jail expanded,” said Sheriff Blackwelder. “It goes to show the moral decline of our country when you get right down to it.”
The expansion is an unwanted necessity to keep up with demand. The work kicked off in December of 2014 and is expected to wrap the November.
The jail will more than double in capacity. There will be 40 women’s beds added to the female population bringing the total to 65. And for men there will be an additional 110 beds bringing that total to 200.
The entire jail has been reconfigured for functionality and safety, with the latest technology for visitation.
“There will be a computer monitor on the wall,” said Sheriff Blackwelder pointed to a wall in the inmates living quarters.” “And their visitor will be up front in the video visitation room. This takes worry away from moving inmates and scheduling visits. We will be able to get more visits in a shorter amount of time.”
One major difference in the new addition to the jail is the dormitory style living quarters. The living areas have tables and an open concept with bunk beds for inmates. Sheriff Blackwelder says this is a benefit for inmates exhibiting good behavior, “The inmates in the new part of the jail will be working inmates and inmates that want to contribute back. This is for inmates that don’t want to cause trouble.”
The living areas have a lookout room for correctional officers to keep safe tabs on inmates at all times. The overlook joins all the dorms together with windows for continuous security.
As for inmates that are causing issues and choose not to be productive in the dorm style area, there is still a place for them.
“We have the other end of the jail that can be locked down and they stay in that end of the jail.” Said Blackwelder.
Once the expansion is complete in November all inmates will be transferred to the new portion. At that time the original part of the facility will be renovated and brought up to today’s standards. At that time the Lincoln County Jail will officially be bailed out of any trouble with the state.
“I’m happy that we will finally have that taken care of,” said Blackwelder. “And the state of Tennessee can no longer write us up.”