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County acquires building to house non-violent offenders

By By JOHN DILMORE JR. Publisher
The Escambia County Sheriff's Office will soon have additional space for housing non-violent offenders thanks to the county commission's purchase of a vacant building next to the jail.
The building, located on St. Nicholas Avenue in Brewton, right next to the jail, was purchased at a cost of $75,000 from the board of First Progressive Bank.
The opportunity the new space represents entails more than just new housing for non-violent offenders. It also frees up space inside the regular jail to house federal inmates -- a money making proposition for the county.
The government reimburses counties for allowing them to place prisoners in their jails when there is no room for them elsewhere.
Another benefit, according to Sheriff Grover Smith, is that it will separate the "good" from the "bad" inmates at the jail. Trustee inmates and those involved in community corrections and work release programs could be housed there, apart from violent offenders who've committed more serious crimes.
By doing so, Smith said, "It would remove in and out traffic" at the jail. By separating prisoners with some freedom of movement -- community corrections inmates are expected to hold down jobs -- it would eliminate the possibility of any contraband making its way back into the jail.
The building, which will require a little renovation, will eventually be surrounded by a 10-foot fence, Smith said. There will be a jail employee there around the clock, monitoring the activities of inmates.
If one of them violates any of the new facility's rules, they will immediately be placed back in the regular jail population.
Smith said his ultimate hope is that the facility becomes self-supporting financially.
Community corrections inmates, and also participants in the county's drug court program, are required to work, and to give a percentage of their salaries back to the county.
That way, the inmates themselves could wind up supporting much of the facility's upkeep.
In other jail-related news, the commission voted Monday to purchase a new closed circuit television system for use in the jail. The system, which costs $31,947 will be purchased from CMI Electronics, the low bidder on the project.
Fifteen thousand dollars worth of the cost will be funded by a grant the sheriff's office recently received, and the remainder will come from funds the county has gotten for housing federal inmates at the jail.
Commissioner Todd Williamson commended Smith for having come up with the funds for making the purchase through these avenues.