Shelby County Jail Working to Improve Facility and Decrease Occupancy Levels - July 16, 2014
Composed by J. J. Ford
Cody Breeland was the artist for the welcome mural.
The Shelby County Jail is trying a few new ideas in hopes of keeping the peace in its cells as well as opening its doors to visitors with the intent of decreasing its overflowing occupancy levels.
Shelby County Jail Administrator William Cox described the jail as looking like a dungeon and with recent resources, inmates with artistic abilities, had the walls painted a shade of blue. Cox said, "This color blue to me has a calming effect. The inmates seem to like this color blue and putting the murals on the wall just livens the place up."
When asked why the jail needed brightening up, Cox replied, "Some of [the inmates] have been to court and some of them are doing their time here. The majority of them haven't been convicted of anything, they are just waiting to go to court. You can't treat them like you do people in TDC (Texas Department of Corrections) because they haven't been convicted and they may not be convicted."
Cox continued to explain that the trustees who come out and do the work, they aren't forced to work but volunteer to work. Cox said, "I'm thankful we have inmates that are willing to come out and work for us and in return we give them two for one." Two for one is for everyday served and working, the inmate is credited two days of time served.
Often times when someone comes into the jail, they are offered the opportunity to use their skills or talents to do various jobs around the facility.
Shelby County Chief Deputy Shad Sparks also commented on the murals in the jail which are murals representing all of the area school and were painted by four of the trustees. Sparks expressed a desire to allow tours of the jail, especially for teens, with hopes of encouraging them to make better choices and show them up front, right now, what jail is all about.
Sparks said, "Jail is not a fun place, and it's not supposed to be." He continued, "A lot of people have never been to jail, and that is a good thing, but it is good for them to see what's going on."
Cox described the murals to be public relations tools saying, "I don't want a full house here. At this time I've got almost a full house here and fifteen housed in Panola County. In times past you didn't have any kind of program to deter young people from going into this life. Drugs are prevolent in this county. We need to show the young people that if you do (drugs) that this is what you are gonna face. We've got to do something to get the young people not to go down the road that others are going down right now."
William Cox explained the jail has been running at a higher capacity and this year he has been having to house more inmates at other facilities which costs the county more money. Cox said, "We hold sixty-six and we've had, with this facility here and Panola, as many as seventy-nine in jail. That is thirteen over our 100% capacity and I don't see it getting any better. Most of the charges are drug related in some way or another."
Chief Deputy Sparks said, "We at the Shelby County Sheriff's Office would like to extend an invite to any churches or organizations that would like a tour of the jail just to contact Jail Administrator William Cox."
Left to Right: Larry Thomas, Cody Breeland, James Pendleton, and Mark Gassiott worked together on the Center Roughrider mural.
Larry Thomas posses with the Shelbyville Dragon mural. He assisted Mark Gassiott with painting the mural.