Wiregrass Newsroom: Tight quarters at jail have authorities searching for answers to overcrowding

Dothan, AL (WSFA) -- Sgt. Sondra Davis has seen her fair share of inmates come through the door at the Houston County jail.  She says having it full to capacity puts a strain on everyone.

"From the inmates being upset, think about living in a condition where you have several people. It's a danger to the inmates as well as the staff because tensions run high," she says.

Inmate and employee safety is just one reason county authorities say they need more room. They're close to hitting their capacity of 534 inmates and say now is the time for action.

"There's definitely a need to expand. We need to add-on another pod to the jail," says Houston County Sheriff, Andy Hughes.

Jail administrators say if the current inmate count of 526 does not decrease in the next few weeks, they may be forced to put them in areas not originally designed for inmates.

"One of the areas we could use is our multipurpose area. It's normally used for when we gear up inmates for court, or other programs," says Davis.

And with money tight, county leaders say a new addition could be a few years off. But the recent addition of a new circuit judge is something they think will help.

"Having five circuit judges, we hope, will allow the judicial system to try cases faster [and] allow us to move those prisoners through the system," says Houston County Commission Chairman, Mark Culver.

And Sheriff Hughes says there's one option that's out of the question.

"I would definitely fight against any action to put criminals back on the street that do not belong on the street. We'd look at other options to keep them incarcerated."

Authorities are considering contacting other counties to see if jail space is available.

Reporter: Melissa McKinney