Five-year plan maps out Houston County jail expansion and renovation

DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN)—The Houston County Commission held its Strategic Planning Review Session Thursday.

During the session, a five-year plan, aimed at renovating and expanding the Houston County jail, was unveiled.

The jail has a capacity of over 300 inmates but averages just under 450 inmates.

Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza said the timing of the expansion is past due.

“Well for 10 years, I’ve asked for pods to be dropped, and I’ve been denied,” Valenza said. “Now, we’re overcrowded.”

According to Valenza, many of the housing pods are not being used. They are being reserved for inmates with COVID-19, 14-day holding cells, and more.

On top of the expansion, the jail will be receiving much-needed renovations.

Valenza says that the current locks on the jail cells pose a safety risk.

“The last two years, I’ve requested locks to be changed; the locks are worn out,” Valenza said. “Two and a half years we’ve asked, and now, it’s gotten to where they can pop themselves out anytime they want to. These are the high-risk pods.”

The Houston County Sheriff said that an inmate was able to break the lock from his cell, and attacked another inmate.

Valenza says that he is working on a plate that will hopefully prevent or slow down inmates from breaking the locks as a temporary solution.

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