July 11, 2007 - Posted at 8:35 p.m. CDT
NEWPORT-As Sheriff David Lucas showed us around the deteriorating Jackson County Detention Center, he said it was no surprise that they failed a recent state inspection.
"These are not problems that have just popped up. These are problems that have been here for several years," said Lucas.
The biggest on the list of violations was overcrowding.
"It's a 26 bed facility. I'm averaging 40 inmates now. I've got 39 back there right now as we speak. On weekends I've seen it get as high as 52," said Lucas.
Those numbers speak loudly to daily operations.
"When you get overcrowding to this extent it creates a safety issues not only for the jail staff, but for the inmates themselves," said Lucas.
Not to mention, it's harder and harder to lock up simple misdemeanors.
"It makes me feel like we are not able to do our job to protect the citizens because we are not able to lock the offenders up," said Lucas.
While overcrowding is one of the major problems being dealt with at the Jackson County Detention Center, it's creating a domino effect, causing smaller problems like building deterioration.
"I've got exposed wiring back there. I've got plumbing problems. Ventilation is poor. They just wrote me up on the whole gamete," said Lucas.
So I asked why the county hasn't acted sooner.
"The financial situation in Jackson County is not real good. We don't have a lot of money. When you go out here and you start looking at new jails and construction. It gets pretty high," said Lucas.
However, they could soon be facing a much higher price if the state shuts the facility down completely.
"That's a position that nobody wants to be in. When you start talking about a county losing its jail, then you've got a huge expense," said Lucas.
He told us that the Quorum Court toured the facility Monday evening, and he says he believes this is the start of moving in the right direction, and that while it may take a while, things will get better.
He says the reason they had not failed previous inspections is because the problems were usually corrected beforehand, but as overcrowding grew, it was harder to keep control.
The jail has six months to get problems corrected before another visit from the state.
K8 News will continue to follow this story and bring the latest updates.