Etowah County Sheriff concerned about conditions of county jail

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ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala (WIAT) – The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office is experiencing a high turnover rates of deputies at the Etowah County jail. Newly elected Etowah County Sheriff, Jonathon Horton, says it’s due to current conditions there.

Horton says currently 212 out of 360 jail cell locks do not work. Horton says he realized there was a problem when deputy’s did a sweep during his first week in office.

“We did a shakedown. And that popped up a lot of contraband, and revealed to us a lot of broken doors,” said Horton, “And the dilapidation of the facility as a whole.”

The jail is currently undergoing $14 million in renovations which includes replacing the broken locks, and repairing and adding new security cameras. In the meantime, Horton says the sheriff’s office is turning to different measures to get inmates to comply. 

“Taking away privileges of visitation and phone calls, and availability to buy from the commissary or store as they call it, above what their regular meals are,” said Horton, “These are the actions we’ve taken in the meanwhile until we get things under control.”

David Akins is chief administrator with the Etowah County Commission Office. Akins believes the renovations will help boost morale and improve safety.

“I think it will make the operations of the jail much smoother, and much more secure. I think it will be a much more pleasant atmosphere for the security guards to work and the sheriff to maintain.”  said Akins.

The renovations are expected to last a year to a year and a half. Horton says the temporary measures have helped with morale, but ultimately the broken locks need to be replaced as soon as possible.

“Of everything that has to be done, those door locks to me are the most important part of this construction project. Because that’s whats going to give us the ability to operate a lot safer in efficiency. Not just for the correctional officers, but for the inmates as well.” said Horton.

The Etowah County Commission Office says it will work with the sheriff’s department to address any concerns until the renovation is complete. Horton says the exterior doors are functioning properly, and the inmates can not escape the jail.

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