Georgia Prison Troubles

State prisons are severely overcrowded and many are in danger of being shut down, so county jails are stepping in to offer a hand.

Since many state prisons are full to the max, extra prisoners are being housed at county jails. This means people with more serious criminal backgrounds are held at smaller facilities.

Jail administrators say if the backlog continues, real problems may occur. As sheriff of Thomas County and chairman of the Georgia Board of Corrections, Carlton Powell has seen the effects of a $110 million state prison budget cut firsthand.

Prisons throughout Georgia are full to the max, and now these more hardened criminals are starting to fill up county jails. Fortunately, in Thomas County that crisis point has not been reached yet. The jail here is only 70 percent full. Jail administrators say they'll do their part to help out with the statewide problem."

"We have two people per cell. We could add two more people per cell which would give us a total of 400 aboard," says Virginia Williams.

Carlton Powell says he hopes lawmakers will step in before the situation goes that far.

"That's what we hope the legislators look at when they go over it this year. Safety of the public, safety of the people working in the prisons, and safety of the prisoners."

That safety may come at a high cost to the state, but jail administrators here say they feel it's more than worth it.

The Thomas County Jail currently houses 126 prisoners. They have a capacity for 240. How much do county jails charge the state to hold state prisoners? Thomas county jail administrators say they charge $30 per day per prisoner. That helps cover the necessities.