Lauderdale County Sheriff says summer heat & overcrowding to blame for high temperatures inside jail

Shoals

FLORENCE, Ala. — If you’ve ever been outside in Alabama in July, you know the heat can be cruel.

Over the past week, News 19 has received several complaints about the air conditioner being out inside the Lauderdale County Detention Center.

Sheriff Rick Singleton said he’s aware of the uncomfortable conditions inside but said the AC is actually working fine.

“The air conditioner is working; it’s just overworked,” Singleton said.

Built in 1994, the Lauderdale County Detention Center was only built to hold 150 inmates, but as of this week, the sheriff said there’s more than double that number inside.

“There’s a multitude of problems that crowding creates,” Singleton said. “You’ve got basically twice the capacity that this unit was designed and engineered to handle. It’s like the air at your home or anywhere else, when you’ve got the kind of weather we’re having right now, it works hard.”

Throughout the years, the jail has added two annexes to accommodate more inmates, but the overcrowding continues.

The sheriff said one reason for the number of inmates is that nonviolent offenders who weren’t being arrested during the pandemic now have warrants. He does have a solution in mind though.

“The commissioners and I have been discussing it, actually for five years or longer, about the need for a new facility,” Singleton said.

However, until those thoughts become a reality, the sheriff said the heat inside the jail remains an unfortunate problem for this time of year for both the inmates and employees.

Singleton said the age-old question about a new jail is how to pay for it. He said in 2016 the estimated cost was $35 million. After speaking with the architect last week, Singleton said the cost has increased to $50 million.

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