December 29, 2005
Overcrowded conditions in Richmond County jails have been a problem for years. $24 million from SPLOST will be used to build a new jail. News 12 explains when the project will start and how the current conditions have some people upset.
Right now there are 415 inmates inside this jail. However, the facility is only designed to hold about 350. That means many of the inmates are sleeping on the floor and some folks we spoke to say that’s just one of many problems there.
Jared Smith was just released from jail. He says conditions on the inside are out of control.
“These Richmond County cops, they think they’ve got more power than they really do, and they just rough up inmates, give them a hard time just because they can,” Smith said.
He says while serving time for a misdemeanor, he wasn’t allowed to talk to his lawyer, wasn’t allowed to eat everyday and he says he witnessed unnecessary physical abuse.
“I physically saw with my own two eyes one of the deputies take this guy’s head and ram it into a metal post,” Smith said.
Other recent inmates say over population is also a major concern.
“I don’t like the situation everybody has to sleep on the floor like that because it’s hazardous, germs get carried around a lot like that,” Eric said.
“They took all my clothes from me and made me sleep on the floor with nothing,” Elizabeth said.
“I’ve never ever heard of such, that’s just ludicrous,” said Captain Johnson.
Captain Gene Johnson runs the jail and says these allegations are all false.
“Eighty percent of the people in this jail have some type of mental problem,” Johnson said.
He says inmates have access to a lawyer 24-7, they’re fed three meals a day everyday, and says he uses cameras in his office to monitor and prevent any abuse from jailers.
“We don’t tolerate any type of abuse, that’s the best way of you getting fired in this department,” Johnson said.
Captain Johnson says he does agree that overcrowding is a problem. He’s ready for the new jail to be built. City Administrator Fred Russell says the $24 million jail project is about ready to go, it’s just lacking one important thing.
“We’ve had some preliminary meetings and preliminary planning, but at this point the dollars aren’t there yet, so you can’t really start some of the engineering stuff,” Russell said.