Clay County

This Week in the 904: Sheriff Cook discusses combating overcrowding at Clay County Jail

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Clay County Sheriff said the county has outgrown its jail.


For years, the jail has been at or near capacity, and the number of inmates is increasing each year.

For an upcoming episode of “This Week in the 904,” Action News Jax’s John Bachman sat down with Sheriff Michelle Cook, who said she is working on a temporary fix.

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The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said the jail is reaching maximum capacity. As of two days ago, there are 449 inmates in the jail, according to a Facebook post by Sheriff Cook. The maximum capacity is 492.

“In the jail world, if you’re at 80% capacity, you’re considered at capacity,” said Sheriff Cook. “We’ve been at or above capacity since before I got there.”

Cook told Bachman that the current housing market makes it too expensive to build a brand new jail right now, but there is a plan. The third-floor administrative building is going to be repurposed using “American Rescue Plan” grant funding.

“We will be able to recognize 80 to 100 more beds, depending on how we set it up, and that should hold us over a few more years,” Cook said.

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Cook said the temporary fix will cost about $6 million. Just last year, more than $7 million from the “American Rescue Plan” went to expanding the current jail to help deal with overcrowding.

The third floor should be fully converted by early next summer.

In the meantime, Cook said that the sheriff’s office is getting creative to keep the worst criminals in jail. Mattresses are being put on the floor and lesser criminals are being given ankle monitors.

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In the long term, Cook wants to build a new, bigger jail.

“We are out of footprint space at our current location. There is nowhere to go,” Cook said. “So, what we’re talking about is [that] it’s going to have to be a separate facility.”

Action News Jax told you in March about the Clay County Commissioners trying to build a new jail with funding over the next 10 years.

Bachman asked Sheriff Cook if Clay County would consider partnering up with Duval County to build a regional jail. She said she would be interested in talking with Duval leaders about that option, as it would save both counties money as they both look for new jails.

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Chase Berger

Chase Berger, Action News Jax

Chase Berger is an Associate Producer for Action News Jax.

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