Overcrowding at the Logan County Detention Center has caused the release of some prisoners facing charges, contributed to several fights in the jail and is contributing to the rising cost of feeding inmates, according to Jail Administrator and Chief Deputy Sheriff David Spicer.
Spicer said last week that prisoners facing lesser charges have been released and those with misdemeanor charges aren’t going to "stay here for long."
"We’re not able to house people facing lesser charges," he said. "If someone is arrested on a misdemeanor charge, we’re probably going to serve them a warrant and give them a court date.
"We’ve released some inmates with a lot of local ties to the community, some who have been unable to post a bond and some waiting on bed space at the Department of Correction," Spicer said. "We have them check in."
Last Friday, the jail was housing 42 prisoners. There are 32 beds in the facility. Since June, the average daily inmate count has been 47. A committee appointed by the Logan County Quorum Court will begin studying a solution to the overcrowding problem at a meeting scheduled for today (Wednesday). County Judge Gus Young has said the solution is to either expand the existing facility or build a new jail.
Spicer said that three or four prisoners awaiting space in the Department of Corrections have been released and told to report weekly. He added that 10 prisoners awaiting a court date on felony charges have been released.
"A felony in and of itself is serious because they are facing prison," Spicer said. "Those we have released are facing non-violent charges."
Spicer added that he knows of only one incident when a prisoner who was released was later arrested and charged with a crime.
"When you don’t have the space, you have to release people when you’d rather see them in jail," Spicer said.
Spicer said overcrowding also causes tension and that can lead to fights.
"Any time you pack people into a small space and force them to live together tensions can run high," Spicer said. "I believe we’ve had problems because of that. In the past couple of months, we’ve had four or five altercations between inmates. At least twice, inmates have had to go to the hospital."
Overcrowding is also costing money, especially when it comes to buying food, Spicer said.
"Food costs have risen a lot," Spicer said. "The cost of food is up and the numbers being fed are up. Food that used to last us for a month is now gone in three weeks."
Spicer said that he and Sheriff Steve Smith have been seeking a jail that will house Logan County prisoners but so far they haven’t found one.
"We’ve made attempts to find space but we’ve had no takers yet," Spicer said.
"We’ve sent out a blanket message about housing our inmates," he said. "No one has shown the slightest interest."