Rowe: ‘The jail needs to go’
by James Phillips
Nov 10, 2012 | 3972 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jasper Police Chief Connie Rowe, center, speaks with newly-elected council member Jed Daniel and chief jailer Debra Johnson inside the kitchen area of the city’s jail facility. Photo by: James Phillips
Jasper Police Chief Connie Rowe, center, speaks with newly-elected council member Jed Daniel and chief jailer Debra Johnson inside the kitchen area of the city’s jail facility. Photo by: James Phillips
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Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe spoke to members of the Jasper City Council Friday afternoon about the possibility of closing the city’s jail.

Rowe said issues at the jail, which is located in the basement of the Jasper Police Department, have become so severe that she feels the best answer is to close the facility.

“The jail needs to go,” she said. “While the cost of operating the jail is a factor in my assessment, my bottom line gut instinct tells me that our liability issues are so diverse and run so deep that we need to close the jail. When you can shed liability, you need to shed it.”

Rowe has already contacted the Walker County Jail about housing the city’s inmates. She said the cost would be $32 per inmate, per day. Jasper averages 35 inmates per day.

“If we move the inmates to the Walker County Jail, it is less than our annual budget,” Rowe said. “We are on the ‘win’ side of the money just by moving them.”

Council member Sandi Sudduth asked Rowe how quickly inmates could be transferred to the county jail.

Rowe said the county has the space, and she could have them moved within a day.

“If you guys give me the OK at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, I’ll have them moved by the next morning,” she said.

If the council decides to keep the city jail open, repairs in several areas of the facility will be necessary. Jasper Police Captain Larry Cantrell also said the department would have to provide 24/7 access to a doctor and have a full-time nurse to take care of the inmates. Rowe said last year the police department spent $14,000 to transport inmates for medical reasons and more than $3,000 in prescriptions for inmates.

Newly-elected council member Jed Daniel toured the Jasper City Jail Friday morning.

“It is as bad as what she thinks it is, and it is worse,” he told the other members of the council.

Rowe said she had ideas for the space if the council decides to close the jail.

She said the women’s section could be changed into a storage area, while the men’s section of the jail could be transformed into a training facility.

“We could generate revenue by hosting training sessions,” she said. “We could bring folks in and charge a fee for anyone outside the department to take part in the training.”

While she has ideas for the space, Rowe said she would leave the facility “as is” for a short time.

“I would say we wait six months or so and see how things are going,” she said. “If we feel comfortable making changes at that time, then we can move forward with renovating that area.”