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New proposal concerning jail overcrowding stirs up old wound in Jasper County

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An order from Jasper County commissioners to Sheriff Randee Kaiser revisits a controversial issue brought up by the county's former sheriff: jail overcrowding.

Former sheriff Archie Dunn disagreed with county commissioners on the right way to solve the problem.  Now, the same solution is proposed but with more stipulations.

County commissioners say they'd rather be safe than sorry.  It's a contingency plan brought up by the county's attorney.

"It was Norman Rouse that brought up the fact we ought to just have one just in case we needed one," says Jasper County Presiding Commissioner John Bartosh.

Renovations at the county's jail may mean prisoners will need to be housed elsewhere.

Nearly two years ago Dunn transported prisoners to a jail in Henry County, citing inmate overcrowding and a possible lawsuit from the ACLU over an inhumane environment for prisoners.

County commissioners refused to pay the housing costs from Henry County.

"The main thing is you have to have a contract - you have to have a bid system and bid it before you can legally do this," says Bartosh.

"He's a liar - I hope you caught the l-i-a-r," Dunn says.

Dunn's interpretation of the state statute allowed him the choice of housing prisoners elsewhere without bidding out costs or approval from county commissioners.

But Bartosh continues to disagree.

"When money exchanges hands you have to go through the bid process," says Bartosh.

County commissioners have since settled on a deal with Henry County for taking care of prisoners.  But the issue is still part of an ongoing feud involving a possible lawsuit between Dunn and county commissioners.

"If they, all of a sudden, tell the new sheriff that it's ok to send prisoners to another county they have in fact admitted that Archie Dunn was right," says Dunn.

Bartosh says part of the decision to ask for bids comes from what happened with Dunn.

"Everything that happens you learn a lesson," says Bartosh.

Bartosh says bids would be sought every year even after jail renovations are complete.

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