Lowndes County Sheriff's Office administrators informed Commissioners in July that the county faces a choice: improve conditions at the jail or face skyrocketing liability and possible lawsuits.

Problems at the 630-bed facility are widespread, Capt. J.D. Yeager said last year. Conditions are bad not just for inmates but also for the jail's 108 employees, Yeager said.

Commissioners took a big step toward correcting the problems recently by selecting an architect for renovations. The board unanimously approved Clemons, Rutherford and Associates Inc. for the job, and the architectural firm has drafted preliminary plans for the jail. Those plans include new inmate housing, a new jail administration building, a new service/intake access, a new access road and room for expansion on the administration building and the new inmate housing. Plans also include demolishing some of the old property. The existing 320-bed housing units left will be renovated.

County Manager Joe Pritchard said the next step will be to form a committee to express its concerns and needs for the jail.

It can't be stressed enough how important it is to renovate the jail. Yeager, in addressing, Commissioners last year, said living conditions at the facility border on "inhumane and unsanitary levels." Besides the liability issues that may arise, the county has the legal and moral obligations of ensuring that inmates, and those who watch over them, are housed in safe conditions.

We urge Commissioners to continue moving forward quickly to correct the jail problems.

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