Has recent gang clean-up caused jail overcrowding?
Local law enforcement arrested nearly 60 gang members within the week, and the Dougherty County Jail is noticing the surge in population.
"We have had to open a new housing area as a response or reaction to these recent arrests," says Jail Director Col. John Ostrander.
There are now just two of the three overflow houses remaining, and the jail is already using 1,000 of its 1,230 beds. They have not reached full capacity yet, but trouble is already reaching maximum security cells where gang inmates are kept.
"Right now maximum security is full. We have completely maxed out. We have a maximum security pod that houses 96 inmates. It's full. And then some," says Ostrander.
Along with the amount of them, there is another factor the jail has to consider with gang inmates.
"We've got two different concerns. Do we put rival gang members together in the same housing unit? If so there are the obvious problems that come with that. But then again, if we put similar gang members together in a housing unit, that allows them the opportunity to create a control base," says Ostrander.
They're concerns to be dealt with quickly because, like the capacity, tension is increasing in the cells.
"Because these are gang arrests, and we have a significant number of gang members in jail, the same gang has been coming in and of opposing gangs so there's been an across the board increase of gang tension in the jail," says Ostrander.
Gang tensions may be increasing but tensions about jail capacity remain subdued.
Ostrander says when the jail was built in the 1990s there was a contingency plan prepared as a cushion in case of overpopulation.
"We have blueprints designed, we have the land acquired, if we had to expand there's a plan. All we have to do is pull the trigger on the plan and it starts," he says. "We haven't had to do that in the past. We've come close, we've had to look at it, we came very, very close but because we were able to manage the population we didn't have to do that."
Ostrander says managing the population is key to keeping the population and capacity percentages under control. He says, previously, some gang inmates that began in maximum security make their way to normal population, clearing room in the maximum security housing for more mass arrests.