CHATSWORTH — Exactly 20 years after the old Murray County jail opened, officials held the grand opening of the new jail on Friday.
“We actually wanted to open it a bit sooner. But we had a few problems we had to straighten out simply because it had sat empty so long. After we got them fixed, we were so close to the anniversary day we said ‘Let’s just wait and do it then,’” Sheriff Gary Langford said.
The $11 million facility was completed in 2009 but stood empty because of funding issues.
“When I was campaigning and when (Murray County Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman) was campaigning last year, one thing that we heard from many people is that they wanted the jail opened,” Langford said. “So after we got into office, we began talking about ways to open it. The Georgia Sheriff’s Association suggests what you need to run a jail safely, and over here we needed 11 people. We worked out a deal. She gave us the funding to hire about half that, and we had some people we were able to switch around and get us to what we needed.”
Capt. Craig Cagle, jail administrator, says the new facility has several advantages over the old jail.
“It has more security features. The visitation area is larger. At the old jail, we could do six inmates at a time. Here, we can do 20. At the old part, we only had two initial holding areas to place people when they first came in. Over here, we have 10. Our kitchen is much larger and has better equipment,” Cagle said.
The new jail can hold 160 inmates, compared to 120 in the old jail. The old jail typically operated at or above capacity. But on Friday, the jail held only around 80 inmates. Langford said he has alerted other members of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association that the jail currently has room and if any of them have overcrowded jails and need to house prisoners elsewhere that Murray County can take them.
Langford said that long term, if funding becomes available, he’d like to renovate the old jail, which is connected to the new one, and use it to house female inmates and to move magistrate court there.