OVERCROWDED PINELLAS JAIL 'DIRE' By Roxanne Escobales

08/02/06

Yesterday the Pinellas County Commission heard that the county’s jail faced an overcrowding crisis. A consultant hired to study the situation called it “severe� and “a dire situation that’s getting worse�.

Roll tape: o.q. “in those housing units�

That was consultant Dennis Kimmy revealing the findings of a study into the Pinellas County Jail system to the county commission yesterday. The last time conditions at the jail were researched was in 1992.

Between 1982 and 2005 the Pinellas County Jail inmate population has more than tripled. Two months ago, the jail had over 13 hundred inmates more than it was designed to hold. Temporary plastic beds, called “boats�, are used to add spaces for new prisoners.

A significant factor to the overcrowding problem was the increase in female prisoners, which now make up 19 percent of the population. Fourteen years ago when the last study on Pinellas county jails was done, the women made up 11 percent of the population. The national rate is 7 percent.

The commission also heard that not only are there too many inmates, but the buildings are outdated and not prepared for any potential hurricanes.

The consultant presented a three-phase plan for new buildings on the the existing site that would be able to hold more inmates. The estimated cost of the project would total 560 million dollars.

As a temporary measure, the county will convert an unused transit authority building adjacent to the jail into a makeshift prison.

Commission chair Kenneth Welch said he strongly supported looking into diversionary measures to help ease the jail’s intake.

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