City inmates to head to Pelham

Published 9:01 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bainbridge Public Safety officers will soon start sending the people they arrest up the highway to Pelham, Ga., after the City Council approved a contract with the other city for inmate housing on Tuesday night.

Ever since the City of Bainbridge closed its small, old jail, it has been taking its prisoners to the Decatur County Jail. The county jail is a short 3.5-mile ride from BPS headquarters, where anyone who is arrested within the city is first booked and given the opportunity to post a bail bond.

Under the new arrangement, Public Safety plans to hold anyone who cannot post bond after booking to be held temporarily in two holding cells to be constructed at BPS headquarters. From there, prisoners will be transported about 34 miles northeast of Bainbridge to the Pelham City Jail, which was constructed in 2008 as a modern facility designed with extra space for housing other jurisdictions’ inmates. The Pelham City Jail is also home to some Atlanta-area prisoners, Pelham Police Chief Neal McCormick said.

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According to Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby, the reason he recommended the council approve the Pelham contract was its lower cost compared with what the Decatur County Jail proposed. Pelham offered to house each inmate at a rate of $30 per day, a price that included transportation costs, Hobby said. The Decatur County Jail offered a rate of $38 per inmate, per day, a rate that could be increased based on the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation.

Based on the city’s number of inmates, the daily difference between the two contracts represented a potential savings of at least $27,000 per year in direct costs, Hobby said.

The existing contract with Decatur County included a 10 percent inmate surcharge the two local governments’ officials had agreed upon with the intention of helping fund operation of the jail, Hobby said. With that in mind, the city manager said he told Decatur County Attorney Brown Moseley he believed the county’s proposed rate was too high.

However, Hobby acknowledged there had been no attempt by either side, apart from his brief phone conversation with Moseley, to negotiate the terms of a renewal of the existing contract.

“I hate to see money leave Decatur County but I also hate to just throw money away, which is what we’d be doing if we continued the existing contract,” Councilman Luther Conyers said.

Chief McCormick said his jail allows video visitation with inmates using the Internet. He also said inmates will be given one free phone call per week.