MILTON — Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson wants to upgrade the jail to meet 2030 population projections of 1,120 inmates.
Johnson has requested from the Santa Rosa County Commission 500 new beds and 16,000 square feet for increased support services.
Santa Rosa County’s population by 2025 will grow 18.5 percent versus 5 percent by Escambia County and 8 percent by Okaloosa County, according to a University of West Florida impact study.
The jail, according to Johnson, was originally constructed for a total inmate population of 582 with 5,000 square feet for medical, laundry and other support services. Previous jail expansions increased maximum capacity to 682 and current support areas are at capacity, according to Johnson.
Commission Chairman Bob Cole asked Johnson if future changes to marijuana laws would affect these estimates.
"No," Johnson said. "That’s a very small percentage (of inmates). The individuals we arrest for possession of distribution, they bond out quickly."
What Johnson does want to focus on is mental health services.
"I have a very aggressive, proactive jail administrator and what he wants to do is (set aside) part of the 16,000 square feet for more mental health services," Johnson said. "Anything that will lower [the] jail population is hopefully getting more people into mental health programs.
"My jail is a dumping station for mental health (issues) … Once they’re in our jail, we’re responsible for all their care."