Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Blake Elsberry and Sheriff Mark Schrader recently visited jails in Rabun and White Counties. Both jails are the steel pod cell pre-fab pods.
While there are no immediate plans to begin building a jail in Chattooga County, the duo felt like it is a good time to start looking at options and gathering information.
“We were able to tour two jails that are similar in size to what we feel will be adequate for our needs in Chattooga. There are many different methods of operations and it’s always great to be able to compare what you’re doing to what others are doing in an effort to maintain best practices. We were able to look at non-traditional steel buildings with pre-fabricated steel cells that are made right here in Georgia. It’s a bit different from the traditional brick and mortar buildings and I think it is something for us to explore,” Sheriff Schrader said.
Sheriff Schrader has visited the White County jail several times, this was Elsberry’s first visit. White County built a new facility in 2010 for a cost of $9.9 million. It is an example of a low budget jail that did not sacrifice quality or efficiency. With a mixture of two-man and four-man modular cells, SteelCell of North America, a Georgia business, provided a 176 bed jail. The jail is essentially a metal building with steel cells, the front is dressed up with brick.
The new jail for White County substantially increased the jail’s capacity, but maintained the same number of staff members.
Rabun’s jail is also a pre-fab steel cell pod design but was a few years before White’s. “It just gave us an idea of how that process goes and what we can do with it,” Elsberry said.
“We are trying to gather as much information as we can,” Elsberry said.
Previous to the new jail’s construction, like Chattooga County, White County had been paying $40,000 to $70,000 per month to surrounding counties to house overflow prisoners. The new jail in White County solved the issue of overcrowding and it eliminated the costly process of transporting inmates to other facilities.
Why is Chattooga County’s jail such an issue?
Currently the jail operates under the court order issued by Judge Murphy that says the Chattooga County Jail is only allowed to house 47 inmates and no more than 57 in case of an emergency, and the 57 cap cannot exceed 10 days per year. The average inmate population for Chattooga County is over 90 daily according to Sheriff Schrader.
Meaning the county foots the bill to house the other inmates outside of the county.
Between the years 2011-2020 Chattooga County spent $4,323,027.00 housing inmates in other counties.
Elsberry also said there was a 55% grant that was available for jail builds from the ground up, “at least we know now that funding is available.”