GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims, who took office last week, released some pictures of what the county jail looked like this weekend when they did a shakedown that uncovered a lot of alarming things.
"I've worked here before. I've been in the jail, but I've never seen it in that kind of shape," said Sheriff Phil Sims. He was on the job less than a week when they took on the jail.
"There's just damage, that over the years, that inmates had done that had never been repaired," Sims said.
That's just part of it. There was trash covering the place, graffiti on the walls, and exposed wires. The inmates damaged the visitation kiosks and gouged holes in the walls. Sims said they had to get a garbage truck because they ran out of space in the jail's trash bins.
The conditions are news to county leaders too. Commission Chairman James Hutcheson says auditors found a few issues in the jail during an annual routine survey last year, but said the report did not reflect what Sims inherited. Hutcheson added anything jail-related that was ever brought to the commission's attention was addressed.
Also last year, a mandated grand jury review of the jail didn't find any issues. County leaders said those inspections are planned for safety reasons, they have about an hour to do the inspection, and the grand jurors don't have full access to the jail unless requested.
"The damage that was upstairs didn't happen overnight," Sims said, "It didn't happen overnight, and we can't fix it overnight. It's not where we want it to be but it's in better shape than what it was."
He added he and the county commission worked together to open positions that had not been filled by the former administration. One of those is a leadership position in the jail.
"Just so the people of Marshall County know, who have loved ones here, that the place is clean now, and we’re making repairs that need to be made. So it’s some progress, and it’s in the works,” Sims said, “We have a plan in place to fix it and repair those problems.”