Officials take proactive approach to Sullivan County Jail

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The Sullivan County Jail is 35 years old. Currently there are 90 inmates in the Sullivan County Jail System. Some are housed in other facilities, because the jail is overcrowded. 

Sullivan County Jail officials want to be proactive about the jail. The jail is currently full, that’s the unfortunate reality for the Sullivan County Jail.  

Monday night residents and citizens and officials filled the room at the Sullivan County Commissioners meeting, many hope officials can come up with a solution.  

“We know this is coming down the pike so we are just trying to get as much information as we can so we can make an informed decision down the line,” Sullivan County Commissioner Robert Davis said.   

The Sullivan County Jail was built in the 80s with the capacity to hold 54 inmates that number is still state approved, but the count is now up to the 90s and inmates are being housed in surrounding counties.  

The number is a far cry from just a few months ago when the jail was housing inmates for other counties.  

“This isn’t something that can be ignored,” Sullivan County Sheriff Clark Cottom said. “It will continue to cost money the longer that it goes on. I don’t see a downward trend in the number of inmates and the number of arrests, and a number of criminal cases filed,” 

During the meeting DLZ Engineering, Architecture and Construction Services presented their finding of their study over the Sullivan County Jail. 

According to this recent study, by the year 2040 Sullivan County will need a 126-bed jail. However, the number of inmates could peak to 171 and with the average stay of an inmate being 34 days, DLZ recommends 180 beds. 

“To have them come in it gives us the knowledge of what we need to do next and where we need to go,” Davis said.   

The location of a new jail may have an impact on construction cost and project cost as well as the long-term operational costs such as transportation. 

The rate of a 180-bed jail would be more than $17.7 million dollars. 

“We have to make decisions today that quite frankly will be decisions that affect the next 20 to 30 years,” Cottom said. “I’m very optimistic that the right decisions will be made.”

Several residents said they’re glad officials are being proactive about the jail situation. 

Monday night was just the first step in the process. 

The county plans to hold public information meetings to hear what residents want out of a jail.  

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