GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims said a sweep of the Marshall County Jail over the weekend turned up contraband that included cell phones, heroin and methamphetamine.
WHNT News 19 has reported the longstanding issues in the county jail that include inmates with drugs, and lack of control. Under former Sheriff Scott Walls, inmates posted pictures and video of fights, drug use, and other bad behavior to social media from inside the jail. In July, nearly every law enforcement agency in the county and the Arab Guntersville SWAT team responded when a group of inmates became aggressive and physically engaged jail staff during a shakedown. In less than a year under Walls, eight inmates managed to escape.
Every law enforcement agency in Marshall County, the Marshall County District attorney's office, and state agencies helped in the shakedown Saturday, less than one week after Sims took office. "That operation started about 7:30 that morning and we didn't finish up here until after 5:00 that afternoon," Sims said.
They recovered cell phones, rope made out of trash bags, shanks, and drugs. They cleaned the jail and repaired extensive damage the inmates made. "By collecting this stuff and having a shakedown, now we have a baseline on how we want this jail operate," Sims said.
He said a big issue when he took office was inmate compliance. "They need to know who's in charge of this county jail," he added.
From the start he suspended all inmate privileges. "It's a privilege," Sims said, "We're running a jail, we're not running a Holiday Inn here in this county."
"We put policies in place that include random checks, random searches, random shakedowns to continue from here on out."
"I'm happy to say we do have inmate compliance right now, which is a good thing. That was our goal from day one and because of that we have reinstated some privileges starting today," Sims said. He added visitation will be reinstated when the video kiosks are repaired, because he said inmates damaged them.
A WHNT News 19 investigation last year uncovered records showing the jail was understaffed with inexperienced guards. "We're nearly back to full staff on the corrections side," Sims said, "We're instituting training programs for those guys. It's a work in progress."
He put policies in place that include restricted trustee access and what employees can and can't have in the jail. "We put a lot of hours in this week, and for obvious reasons," Sims said, "We've been putting policies in place all week to deal with jail related issues."
"We're going to institute policies of random checks, random searches by our staff and nobody will know when we're going to do them. They will be routine. We don't want to lose what we've already gained."
The Marshall County Commission is working with Sheriff Sims to remedy the jail issues.