Sheriff Proposes New Choctaw County Jail

In 2010, the county jail in Butler was shut down by the state of Alabama due to numerous fire hazards. It was reopened at the beginning of 2012, after hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements.

Newscenter 11 took a tour of the newly renovated facility and talked with Sheriff Tom Abate about a push to build a whole new jail.

The Choctaw County Jail was built in 1964, and is, by far, one of the oldest still being used in Alabama.

As part of a renovation effort, a number of wires and extension cords that were visible outside the building have been taken down. More than 50 years worth of lead paint has been removed, along with some outdated plumbing and kitchen fixtures being replaced, in addition to new security cameras.

"The locking mechanisms for the jail had to be reworked, because we couldn't get parts," said Abate.

With a capacity to hold up to 55 inmates, the cells in the jail have been redone with new mattresses, new paint jobs and even new phones that are accessible to inmates.

"When I first came here it was pretty rough," said Gail Goff, jail administrator.

Goff was hired as administrator and cook in August 2011. In regards to concerns raised by some from the community about what the inmates are being fed, she says all standards are being met.

"Usually around 1500 to 1600 calories per day is what each inmate gets," Goff said. "And it's three meals a day, and it's a very nutritional meal that they get."

Although more strict rules are now in place to make sure that inmates at the jail do not have contact with the general public, Sheriff Abate says there is a need to not only update the jail, but also to move it to another location, outside the heart of the town.

"We're going to go to the commission and ask for a legislative act to be passed in February to increase court costs for criminal cases to help construct, maintain and staff the county's correctional facility," said Abate.

The estimated cost for a new jail is $5.4 million. The proposal is to pay for it through a 40-year bond that would be repaid with the additional court costs.

Renovating the jail cost the county more than $200,000.

If state lawmakers approve a measure to build a new jail when they convene next month, Abate says work on that could start within the next two to three years.

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