Gulf County Jail

By: Candace White Email
By: Candace White Email

As we told you last week, Gulf County commissioners are the latest group faced with finding a way to run their county's jail.

Sheriff Dalton Upchurch told commissioners he was finished with the dilapidated facility as of January 1st.

Commissioners are now exploring their options.

As of January 1st, the leaking pipes and crumbling walls at the county jail will no longer be Gulf County Sheriff Dalton Upchurch's problem.

He's handing the jail over to the Gulf County Commission.

"My requirement is to provide law enforcement to this county, that's my constitutional requirement,” Sheriff Upchurch said. “I've been telling them since February 2005 that their jail is impacting the law enforcement services. I will not take law enforcement money and use it in corrections! Those are two entirely separate budgets."

Upchurch is working with commissioners to make a smooth transition. "The jail needs repair, the jail needs funding and somebody has to do it," he says.

However, the board is facing some serious staffing and funding challenges.

Commissioners say they'll have to borrow about $250,000 dollars to bring the dilapidated building up to code.

After this year's property tax breaks, Gulf County Commission Chairman Carmen McLemore says the county has had to cut the budget to the bone.

Despite that, he says he's confident team work will make the change over run smoothly. "By us working with the sheriff and his cooperation and his attitude, we can do this and we're moving forward," he says.

Not all the commissioners share McLemore’s positive attitude about the situation.

Some don't appreciate Sheriff Upchurch's timing, giving them the jail just three months into the new budget year.

Gulf County Commissioner Nathan Peters Jr. said, "The sheriff should not be giving the Board of County Commission back the jail in the middle of the year. The best way to do it is to give us the jail back around [the] budget session so we can plan for this."

Regardless of Peters' feelings, he and the other commissioners will take over the jail on January 1st.

Commissioners have decided not to contract with a private firm, like Corrections Corporation of America, to operate the jail.

They named Yevette Farmer as the new jail administrator.

Farmer is currently a captain with the sheriff's office and has been in the department for 16-years.

CCA officials attended Tuesday’s meeting and offered to house inmates at other CCA facilities if necessary.

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