Georgia Criminal Appellate Law Blog Offering Insight and Commentary on Appellate Law and Criminal Trial Practice

All Jail Visits Should Be Like This

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Last night, I attended the Griffin Historical Society’s “Drink in History” event at the old Griffin Jail, featuring the fine products of the Jailhouse Brewery. I had spent my entire afternoon at the new Spalding County Courthouse, and this event was in a building that was once the old Spalding County Courthouse, from approximately 1860 unit approximately 1914. In 1914, the county converted the building into a county jail. The building functioned as the jail until 1984, when the Sheriff’s department opened another facility across town. The whole facility was open for a tour, including all the creep showers, the two solitary confinement cells, the women’s unit (with six beds), and the gallows. On the third floor, there was a trapdoor. You could look up to see the eyelet hook for the rope. And the lever for the trapdoor was there as well. I was told that there is no record of the gallows ever being used, as the public preferred outdoor hangings in the field out in front of the old courthouse.
I had forgotten that there was a time when the counties did not outsource their executions to the Georgia Department of Corrections. At one time, hangings were a local spectacle. Standing on the trapdoor (even with the device cemented over) gives one a queasy feeling. Also, this was the first time I have visited a jail in a while where I did not have the overwhelming feeling that they were going to find my name on the computer system and attempt to keep me. It is a recurring nightmare that many in our profession have.

One of the attendees recalls visiting clients in that old facility. And he
said that it looked pretty much the same now as it did then — peeling paint and all. He says that there were no attorney booths. You just pulled your chair up to a cell and had a talk. Otherwise, the place had a familiar feel to it. The more things change the more they stay the same. I just wish that all jail visits included jailhouse beer.