The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) held a jail open house Wednesday morning.
Nearly 200 people were present to hear about current programs at the jail and to participate in the jail tour.
Major Robert Barkley spoke about the facility being built for 157 inmates and now operating with 50 percent more inmates than its capacity.
A few months ago, he said, they started to implement some programs that would help decrease the population of the jail with a re-entry program for the trustees.
He explained that trustees were used throughout the community as well as in the jail for such things as yard and building maintenance.
They have created a portfolio, he said, of the types of work the inmates have done to help them when they are on the outside.
County Commissioner Doug Croley spoke about the jail and the county’s responsibility to keep the county safe.
He said it was important that the jail facility be adequately staffed and adequately maintained.
Commissioner Sherrie Taylor said one of the commission’s responsibilities is safety. The county’s responsibility is to see that the sheriff’s department is properly funded. “I’m very proud of what is going on at the jail. There is a lot of rehabilitation going on out here,” she said.
Sheriff Morris Young spoke, saying “we are the only 24-hour service in the county.” He said over the years, in law enforcement, he has worked all shifts.
He praised his staff at GCSO saying that they deal with a lot of issues. He called it the “hell hole” of the county.
People with all kinds of heinous crimes have come through this jail, the sheriff said, and some of those have gone on to death row through this jail.
He said jail employees are cursed at, spit on and accused of things.
“I want to expose the justice system to the people (of the county),” he said, “of what goes on in the jail.” He added that it is the big elephant in Gadsden County that nobody wants to deal with.
Young said that 99 percent of the people in the jail are black and it is tough being a black sheriff. It is tough, he said, with calls from family members 200 times a day.
He said there were times he wanted to give the jail back to the county.
He talked about letting people out, stating it was a difficult decision and that he worried about it a lot and that it was his responsibility if something goes wrong.
He said there was $29.1 million spent every year on the justice system in Gadsden County. That would break down, he explained, to $30,000 per person if it were given to people to stay out of trouble.
“(This jail is) way too small for Gadsden County,” Young said.
Young went on to say that if a major event happened in the jail, “we are riding on thin ice.”
Young told the crowd that they should hold him, the state attorney, public defender and all people in the judicial system accountable.
Young said the county was averaging about 13 murders a year when he took office.
“I chose to do this job,” the sheriff said. “Every day I do my job, and I do my best.”
Young said the sheriff’s department was trying to make the jail better.
He said that the staff in the jail worked hard and he thanked them for what they have done.
Following Young’s speech, the crowd was divided into small groups and allowed to tour the jail.