The Leon County Jail Is Running Out of Space

In the last few weeks the jail population has swelled to more than 1,200 inmates. To put that in perspective, about 900 inmates is considered a full house.

Space isn't the only issue. Sheriff Larry Campbell says he's got more than 300 state prisoners awaiting transport. In the meantime, it's Leon County taxpayers footing the bill.

The Leon County Jail is running so short on space, 45 inmates slept on cots Wednesday night. Sheriff Larry Campbell says that's just the beginning of his problems.

Thursday he was holding more than 320 state prisoners behind the county jail walls, and it's costing the county more than $17,000 a day.

"The state needs to be kicking in to help these counties pay for prisoners that have already been convicted and send them to state prisons," he says.

Campbell says if it's not controlled, federal lawsuits could come and he could be forced to release some inmates to make room.

Leon County Commissioner Ed Depuy, who's the commission liaison with the jail, says the problem is a breakdown in the state system.

Ed Depuy says, "They are no longer a responsibility of Leon County, they’re a responsibility of the state of Florida and we want them out of here and we want them in prison, not on the taxpayers of Leon County's back."

Depuy says he's demanding help from the Department of Corrections. Campbell hopes that comes soon. Otherwise, he says there's the possibility that it could come down to loading up the prisoners by the busload and sending them to the state prison. It's happened before elsewhere in the state.

"We don't want it to get to that magnitude, but it's quickly approaching."

Leon County has set aside $600,000 to start work on a work release center, a program for lower risk inmates. Commissioner Depuy said he will see what he can do to speed that process up.