Options Are Still Open on the Future of the Bay County Jail

Bay County commissioners are considering the option of taking over the operation of the county jail.

The commission received and reviewed proposals Tuesday from two correctional facility management groups and agreed to move forward and negotiate with the apparent winning bid submitted by Corrections Corporation of America.

But the commission says nothing is set in stone yet and if terms can not be agreed upon with CCA, the county will look into taking over the jail, building a new one and operating it itself.

The county, if it doesn't come to terms with CCA could have the Sheriff run the jail, or the commission could hire its own staff to run the facility.

CCA won the initial round of bidding by defeating a proposal from Emerald Corrections Group to build and operate a new county jail off Nehi Road in Bayou George. Tentative plans call for the 30-year-old downtown county jail to be demolished when the new one is built.

Presently, 64 of Florida's 67 counties operate their jails or have the sheriff's do it. Only three, including Bay County contract to jail operations to a private corrections company.

Major J. B. Holloway of the Bay County Sheriff office says taking over the local jail is not Sheriff Frank McKeithen's first choice, but he will do what is in the best interest of the county.

Bay County Commissioner Jerry Girvin, a retired high ranking officer with the Bay County Sheriff's Department, ran the present Bay County Jail when Sheriff Lavelle Pitts was in office.