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Bulloch History by Roger Allen

The many jails of Bulloch County

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Posted: February 15, 2008 9:32 p.m.
Updated: March 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    When the Bulloch County Commissioners were finally named by the Georgia Legislature, the list of men responsible for “fixing a proper place to erect a Court House and a jail” were Drury Jones, John Mikell, and Israel Bird. While Statesboro was not a den of thieves, it did have its moments when the law was desperately needed.
Apparently, tempers were growing short with those who seriously misbehaved, for the 1813 Grand Jury report stated that a horse thief was publicly whipped 39 times for three days in a row before being carried to Chatham County’s jail.
    This caused the Grand Jury to set aside the grand sum of $500 to build a suitable building to contain its criminals. This, the first jail, actually served as a stables most of the time, as it was a mere log cabin, When space was needed for a lawbreaker; a stall was cleared out for the miscreant.
    By 1843, the need for a more secure location to incarcerate the evil-doers caused the County Commissioners to draw up plans for their next jail, to be built by William H. DeLoach. This planked structure was soon erected on the Court House Square.
    On May 30, 1879, the County Commissioners again advertised in the Excelsior News for bids for a newer, larger jail on Hill Street. It was to be 22 feet by 23 feet in size; the walls, floors, and ceilings were to be made secure so that in no location could a one and one-half inch hole be cut. The rooms were to be 7 by 10 feet in diameter, and were to be separated by a 6 and a half foot corridor.
    There was to be one window, 18 by 20 inches wide, with iron grates so close together that no weapons (or inmates) could pass through the bars. The jail itself was to be built on a solid foundation, 10 inches off the ground with a floor 9 and Ω inches thick.
    The County Commissioners again advertised in the Statesboro News  on June 14, 1901 for a new jail. It was to be a two-story building, 38 and a half feet long by 42 and a half feet wide; with six rooms on the first floor, with two being cells.
    On the second floor, there were to be three rooms, one of which was to be a large caged area with four individual cells, as well as an indoor gallows from which prisoners could be hanged out of sight of the public but right in front of the other prisoners. The trap door would open up onto the first floor.
    The winning bid came from the Pauly Jail Company of Saint Louis, Missouri, with a final cost of $8,397. In an article on January 2, 1902, the Statesboro News crowed that “any criminal hereafter (will) be hung inside the walls of the jail”.
    More renovations were made to the facility in 1915 at a cost of $4999, which included a new kitchen, another cell on the first floor, a jailer’s bedroom, and more bath facilities on the second floor. In April of 1947, the Grand Jury investigated the condition of the jail, reporting that “these quarters are not fit for a human’s habitation”.
    Over the next 50 years, things improved very little at the jail. On July 19, 2006, voters in Bulloch County approved the expansion of the county jail, at an estimated cost of $10.5 million. While renovations will be ongoing for a good while longer, the new Jail Complex will be a much different “hoosegow” than what the Boro first sported.
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger
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