New Problems for Bay Jail Operator

Bay County sheriff's officials are investigating an inmate beating at the Bay County Jail annex.

The beating comes as the company that operates the jail for the county, Corrections Corporation of America, is trying to win a new contract, but this latest incident has at least one county official saying enough is enough.

Authorities have charged 25-year-old Orlando Marcus Holly with aggravated battery after he attacked another inmate last week. He allegedly attacked 49-year-old Robert Sweatt, kicking out his teeth, shattering his orbital bone and causing inner cranial bleeding.

The Corrections Corporation of America took over Bay County jail operations in the mid-1980s. The CCA is now competing for a contract to build and run the new jail.

Bay County Commissioner Jerry Girvin used to be the head of the Bay County Jail operations when it was operated by then-sheriff Lavelle Pitts.

"Over the months and weeks we've seen just one thing after another and we have a high personnel turnover. At some point in time you have to say enough is enough."

In 2005, CCA fired several employees for mismanaging inmates. A jail annex nurse was fired after apparently ignored a pregnant woman's complains of labor pains. In May, a CCA official was blamed for not following policy during inmate rounds after it was discovered a man had hanged himself, and in September of 2004 four inmates escaped from their 3rd floor cells and took four people hostage.

And the list goes on. Commissioner Girvin says part of it is not uncommon at all. "It happens with all jails they're gonna happen, but what you do is when you see a problem, you solve the problem and you handle things a little different."

Last month county commissioners voted to negotiate with CCA to build the new jail and operate it. But this most recent incident will be fresh on the mind of commissioners, when those negotiations begin this week.

Girvin says he'd like to see the county and the sheriff's office run the jail.

"The sheriff is going to be more particular about the operation of the jail and the people of Bay County have an opportunity to say your doing a good job or not doing a good job every four years and I think we need that."

Another advantage of the county running the jail would be public accountability. If the county were in charge, all jail records would be available to the public under the Sunshine Law.

Because CCA is a private business, some of those records are not available.

Sheriff's officials say the inmate attacked last week is in critical condition, but is recovering.


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