Decatur County GA JailThe Bainbridge City Council unanimously approved an agreement with Decatur County to begin housing inmates at the Decatur County Jail.

The council’s action on Tuesday night sets up a three-year contract in which the Decatur County Jail will house misdemeanor inmates arrested by Bainbridge Public Safety, while they await an appearance in municipal court.

Felony inmates were already being housed at the Decatur County Jail, but Bainbridge’s misdemeanor inmates were being sent up the highway 35 miles to the Pelham City Jail. The City of Bainbridge had been sending inmates to Pelham since 2010, but is forced to find a new place to take them after Pelham decided to close its jail effective May 30.

Under the new contract, Bainbridge will pay $33 per day, per inmate to the Decatur County Jail, as well as 10 percent of any fined levied by the city in Municipal Court. The agreement takes effect May 20 and lasts three years. The per day rate can be adjusted after each year, so as to conform with the U.S. Consumer Price Index, which tracks inflation.

The agreement (read full 3-page version here) also contains policies related to payment of inmates’ medical care and the collection of bail bond money for city inmates.

Before leaving in 2010, the City of Bainbridge was paying a daily rate of $38 per inmate to the Decatur County Jail. The City of Bainbridge was paying $30 per day, per inmate to the Pelham City Jail, and was not required to share 10 percent of levied fines, according to City Manager Chris Hobby.

Bainbridge City Councilman Don Whaley and Bainbridge Public Safety Director Jerry Carter, left
Bainbridge City Councilman Don Whaley and Bainbridge Public Safety Director Jerry Carter, left

However, the Pelham City Jail was a defendant in two lawsuits: one filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights alleging improper treatment of probationers, and another filed by a Roswell, Ga., woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by a jail guard earlier in 2015. The Roswell woman was charged in Dekalb County but was sent to the Pelham City Jail as part of a inmate housing outsourcing.

City and county leaders responded favorably to the new agreement between the two governments.

“It’s a good sign that Decatur County and Bainbridge are working together again,” County Commissioner Pete Stephens said. “We’re mending the fences and continuing to look for ways to work together on issues we face together.”

City Councilman Don Whaley said he believes citizens will see more cooperation between the city and county governments in the future.

“The cooperation is much improved from what it was, and I think you can see that on both sides–it’s much more civil now,” Whaley said. “I certainly do think that we will probably discuss how we can work together on a number of things now that relations are better.”

City may look to reduce number of inmates it sends to jail

Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby recently told the City Council that the money the city is spending on housing inmates is trending higher than expected this year. Hobby said $140,000 was budgeted to pay for inmate housing this year. However, based on figures at a little over halfway through the city’s budget year (which ends Sept. 30), the city government is on track to pay $210,000 this year on inmate housing. According to the City Manager, the city has an average of about 15-18 people in temporary custody at a jail at any one time.

Hobby said he and Bainbridge Public Safety leaders may sit down with Municipal Court Judge Josh Bell to discuss ways that the average number of city inmates can be reduced. For example, the judge might choose to sentence people to community service instead of jail time.

City Councilman Whaley said the Council will look at ways of paring down inmate costs.

“Sending someone to jail is a last resort,” Whaley said. “Most of the people who go to Municipal Court are there for minor traffic offenses. If you send them to jail, there’s no way for them to get out and earn money to pay off their fines and fees. Certainly, we want people to be productive members of society.”

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