Moldy walls, leaky roof: 'Unacceptable' conditions at old Escambia jail won't be quick fix

Conditions at Escambia County's old jail building are "unacceptable," Escambia County Commission Chairman Jeff Bergosh said after touring the jail this week.

Bergosh said he saw mold growing on walls, rusted electrical panels, leaking roofs, cracked floors and a sink with constantly running hot water.

"What I found were conditions that were unacceptable," Bergosh said.

Bergosh said his office had been getting anonymous calls and requests for help with the conditions at the jail.

After going on the tour, Bergosh published what he saw on his blog, including photos of mold and a "McGuyver" roof leak system of tarps to catch leaking water.

Last year, the county opened its new $144 million jail building next to the original jail building that was built in 1981. The old building is still used to house inmates, though all of the administration, laundry and cooking operations have been moved over to the new building.

Disputes over the cost of the jail and a federal investigation into conditions at the jail led the County Commission to take over direct operations of the jail in 2013. A few months later, during the April 2014 flood, the Central Booking and Detention Facility exploded, forcing the county to build a new jail facility.

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Moldy walls, leaky roof: 'Unacceptable' conditions at old Escambia jail won't be quick fix

Bergosh said the problems at the jail did not happen overnight, and staff turnover and now hiring shortages have added to the problem.

"At the end of the day, like I wrote my blog post, someone has to own it," Bergosh said. "And apparently no one wants to, so I'm going to own it."

Bergosh said the worst areas were not being occupied by inmates or county employees, but there are areas that are occupied that are "substandard, borderline unacceptable."

Bergosh added that it appears maintenance tickets were put in to repair items, such as the leaking sink, that were marked complete when they weren't repaired.

"To me, that's borderline fraud," Bergosh said.

Bergosh met with the county administration about the jail Wednesday afternoon and asked them to immediately prepare a course of action for the County Commission to take to address the problems.

"I'm not going to divulge exactly the nature of the conversation, but suffice to say that I was very direct, and I'm not happy," Bergosh said.

"I knew when I walked out of that jail that we had to do something," Moreno said.

Commissioners will discuss what to do at their next Committee of the Whole meeting on March 10.

Bergosh said fixing the deteriorating jail has to be a top priority of the county.

"You cannot have people living in those conditions," Bergosh said. "These are human beings that we're talking about. They have to be treated humanely, and that includes our employees."

Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.