Sheriff details problems with closed Choctaw Co. Jail

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 4:48 PM CDT
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BUTLER, Ala. (WTOK) - The Choctaw County, Ala., Jail has been closed for almost two years. It was shut down by the fire marshal due to safety concerns.

Choctaw County Sheriff Scott Lolley recently allowed Newscenter 11 inside to look at the problems. We found cracks inside and out. Mold can be found throughout the entire facility. There are holes in jail cells and rebar that’s rusted.

“What you see is foundational shift in the building. In some cases the roof is going in one direction, and the rest of the building is going in another,” Lolley explained. “There’s a lot of rust. You have rust inside these cells that you can almost stick your hand through.”

Lolley said the county is in desperate need of a new jail. He said the Choctaw County Commission has entertained the idea of renovating the current jail. Instead, Lolley said they need to build a new one.

“Right now they are discussing a temporary facility. Unfortunately, (it) involves part of a tent structure, which isn’t good. The other thing they are looking at is building a new jail or to renovate this jail. This jail cannot be renovated; it’s falling through the ground. This ground is not good for a jail,” Lolley said.

In April, Sheriff Lolley served the commissioners with a notice of intent to sue. He said every grand jury report since 2007 said the jail was in disrepair.

“They have been on notice since ’07 to build a jail. The Alabama fire marshal came in in 2010 and shut the jail down. Two years ago, the fire marshal had to come in and shut this jail down,” Lolley said.

The fire escape cannot be opened. Lolley said there’s too much weight bearing down from the roof shifting. For many years, the jail had water problems throughout the facility. In 2016, a $95,000 plumbing project fixed some of the issues, but much of the damage was already done.

“The structural rebar was encased in water and stayed that way for a long period of time. The rebar oxidized and rusted. Now, there is rebar rusting in two in there,” Lolley said.

When the jail shut down, Choctaw County was forced to house inmates at the Clarke County, Ala. jail. That was costing roughly $25 per day per inmate.

“The first year with Clarke County at $25 a day for the inmates, we spent $240,000 to house inmates under contract,” Lolley said.

Now Choctaw County keeps inmates at the Washington County Jail. Carrying inmates back-and-forth is putting a burden on the department. Lolley said he just wants action to be taken quickly.

“The Choctaw County Commission needs a suitable piece of land and proceed with building a jail. Alabama law gave them 11 months to act on it and July 19 will be the two year anniversary of this jail closing,” Lolley said.

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