There have been numerous jails built over the years of Cobb County’s existence. There are many tales stemming from the early years of Cobb County. The following story is taken from The First Hundred Years A Short History of Cobb County, in Georgia:
…no means for the incarceration of disturbers of the peace, the problem of disposing of drunken men who menaced the dignity of the court was solved by the simple expedient of throwing these gentlemen upon the ground and turning a wagon body over them until such time as they were able to go about their business peaceably…Their methods were not conventional, but they were certainly effective.
County funds could not compass the building of a jail, but a horse lot, surrounded by a high rail fence, in the rear of the courthouse, did duty more than once as a temporary detention pen when lawless spirits disturbed Judge Hiram Warner’s court. At a sign from Judge Warner, the sheriff, George Baber, would remove the disturbers from the courthouse to the horse lot. If they were slightly drunk, or showed signs of repentance, they might sit there until Mr. Baber deemed it wise to release them. If the offenders were obstreperous, however, Mr. Baber placed their heads between the rails of the fence, after which he took his seat upon the topmost rail, nodding to friends and acquaintances from his perch while he kept an eye upon his prisoners. Good behavior and remorse usually followed.
It was not until 1846 that a jail was built, some 13 years after Cobb began. This came about from a law in 1845 that authorized the levying of taxes for jail construction. The description of the jail is an excerpt from The First Hundred Years A Short History of Cobb County, in Georgia.
It had dungeon, a square room on the ground floor, entered from a trap door in the second floor, which was the jail proper. The outside steps led directly to the second floor, the front door opening upon a platform scarcely large enough to be called a porch. The architecture of an earlier day was thought to be good enough for the jail; it was built of hewn logs and had, instead of windows, small iron gratings. It was situated one block west of the railroad and south of Whitlock Avenue.
In 1859 the justices of the inferior court were authorized to levy taxes to build “a safe, secure, and substantial jail not to cost more than $5,000.” The new jail was never built due to the rumors of war. The “dugeon” jail continued its service until 1864; it was burned by Northern soldiers in the War of the Northen Aggression.
After 1864, interim measures were taken to detain offenders and meet out justice since no jail existed. Some escaped the arms of justice due to the inadequate detention facilities. Prisoners of the court were held in an old fire house.
The grand jury had indicated in 1866, 1867, and again in 1868 the need for a jail, however, the county treasury of 1869 had only sixteen (16) cents. In 1870 the county treasury had a surplus, thus in the following year a jail was built in the rear of the destroyed courthouse.
The image to the right is a jail built in the 1940’s. The cost of the jail was approximately $60,000. This figure presents a striking difference in costs from yesterday and today. Inmate labour was used to construct the jail. Today, we still utilize inmate labour to construct some facilities, albeit, the construction cost is very high and the inmate’s contributions are limited on detention facilities.
Cobb County embarked upon constructing a building in 1966. This building, presently the Public Safety Building, was located on Washington Avenue and was completed in 1968. The building was five (5) stories and housed many government agencies. The top floor provided a 128 bed jail. Essentially, the top floor was open and a “steel box” welded into place inside the floor area. The “steel box” included a maze of corridors, cells, and office areas. The top of the “steel box” was fashioned with steel bars. The photograph to the left reveals one of the corridors in the “steel box.” The basement housed the entire Sheriff’s Office, including an intake and release area.
During the 1980’s the inmate population experienced significant growth. This created an extreme overcrowding issue in the high-rise jail. A federal court order prohibited the housing of more than 128 inmates. Sheriff Hutson had one alternative, house the inmates at other facilities. Remote housing creates an extreme burden, most visible are the housing expenses. In addition, there are the expenses of manpower and other incidental costs with transporting the inmates from one place to another. Inmates were being boarded all over the state, north to Towns County and south to Muscogee County. A jail bond referendum was issued and approved to construct a new jail.
Today’s jail was originally built on County Farm Road in 1989 with the jail bond referendum approved by the citizens. The road has since been renamed to County Services Parkway. The cost of the 864 bed facility was $48,000,000. The jail was designed so that inmate movement would be nominal. The jail consisted of four (4) pods, each pod having six (6) blocks and one (1) recreation yard. Inmates could be kept in their pod for most activities and easily released into the recreation yard with minimal staff.
In the late 1990’s, an expansion of the jail was undertaken. The $32,000,000 expansion increased the rated capacity of the facility to 2,048 inmates. The expansion continued the concept of pods with nominal inmate movement, however, it included a new type of housing for the inmates. The older portion used actual cell housing, the expansion included some “dormitory” style housing areas.