ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Etowah County’s sheriff says he wants to do something about a high rate of turnover in the county jail.
Sheriff Jonathon Horton says the jail, built in 1994, is in dilapidated condition. He says it was built to hold 805 people, but often averages 1,000 or so.
As we reported earlier, he says two-thirds of the cell door locks don’t work, more than 200. He says repairs have begun on those locks, but they take an hour and a half each to repair.
Horton also had a raid where he found numerous pieces of contraband in the cells. They included shivs, a stolen jailer’s chair, even an oscillating fan whose cord stretched from the jail’s common area to the cell.
As a result, he says the hirees tend to be very young, and morale goes down.
“I think when you just look at the setting of a 19 or 21-year-old in a jail that two-thirds of the locks don’t work in, they’re sort of, kind of, at a disadvantage from the beginning. It’s just been tough on them,” Horton said.
Horton says pay is often thought to be part of the problem, but he doubts that, thinking it’s more likely the condition of the jail.
“But I worked here, 15-16 years ago, when pay was three or four dollars less an hour,” Horton says. “And at that time, our retention was better, so I don’t think it can all be put on pay.”
Horton says morale has gone up recently, and he also increased the amount of training the new hires receive.
He says the planned renovation of the jail, including the ongoing repair of the door locks, should help too. Horton says the sheriff’s office has also repaired broken cell windows. Inmates had used sheets and cut up milk containers to “fish” for contraband from an outside friend. Broken exterior cameras have been repaired, as well.
A facility is being built nearby that will temporarily house some inmates while their cell areas are being renovated.