When four inmates took over the third floor of the Bay County Jail last month, they cited overcrowding as one of their main complaints. They thought their actions might bring about change. They might be right.
Bay County Commissioners say the hostage situation put the issue on the front-burner. But they say changes were already in the works.
"We've been looking into this for the past few years. Overcrowding has been a problem for a long time," says Bay County Commissioner Cornel Brock.
The county needs at least another 300 beds to alleviate overcrowding at the county jail and jail annex. The commission received a short term plan to temporarily solve the problem.
"We're looking at modular units at the annex. We also looking at buying land next to the annex, and getting the downtown facility appraised to be sold," says Roger Hagan, Bay County Correctional Program Manager.
Hagan also has a long term plan outlined in the report submitted to County Commissioners. One of the proposals would demolish the current jail and build a new one next to the annex. This could open the door to developers who are interested in developing this waterfront property.
"It's a beautiful piece of property. And we always questioned the land use for that property," says Brock.
If commissioners agree with Hagan's plan it would still be years before developers would build here, but short term plans could be in place in a matter of months.
County commissioners will take up the issue at their next meeting. Brock says a workshop will be scheduled then for early December.