Daviess County no longer has a jail which will accept prisoners. County Sheriff Harold Appley condemned the jail as of Nov. 1, 1975, as being unfit to receive prisoners.
In a letter to Presiding Judge Robert Owings, the sheriff stated: “Due to the present condition of the Daviess County Jail, which does not, in my opinion, meet any of the suggested minimum standards of county, state or federal jail committees as to health and sanitation, ventilation, lighting, prisoner safety, visiting facilities and the impossibility of a continual supervision of the prisoners, I feel it my duty, not only for my own personal liability but that of any prisoners, to condemn this jail as of November 1, 1975, until such time as reasonable quarters can be provided for incarceration of suspected, apprehended or convicted violators of the law.”
The sheriff previously said that he is the only official authorized to condemn a jail. He said Circuit Judge Kenneth Lewis had refused to place prisoners in the Daviess County Jail for many months.
“I have asked for improvements to be made in the jail from time to time,” Appley said, “but the court says they are broke and lake the funds. I do not question that they are hard-pressed for money but this jail is no longer suitable for anyone to be housed in it.”
Appley said it would probably be cheaper for the court to house prisoners in another jail in the long run since the costs of maintaining and heating the old jail and living quarters are so expensive.
Following a meeting of the county court and the sheriff, Judge Owings said it appeared the court has but two alternatives. The first is to make repairs and changes to the present jail to meet the standards; second, to consider moving the jail into new facilities on the upper floor of the courthouse.
The court made an inspection of the fourth floor to determine if this alternative would be feasible. Owings said that the improvements submitted by Sheriff Appley for the old jail were “not bad” as far as expense was concerned but the feeling persists that the old jail facility has simply outlived its time and ought to be replaced.
Judge Owings said the county needs a new jail and he would have liked to see one built “but things just haven’t worked out.” He indicated county prisoners would now be sent to nearby jails until a solution for this county can be reached.
The Daviess County Jail has had an interesting history since it was built in 1888. Until some years ago it contained what was commonly called the “squirrel cage” cells which could be spun around like a merry-go-round with one common entrance to all cells. This apparatus was removed in a major remodeling project some years ago but living conditions inside the jail were not helped much. Sanitation, light and heat have remained a serious deficiency.
Living conditions for the sheriff and his family have also been poor in recent years. These quarters are near the cell area and meals for the prisoners were prepared in the sheriff’s kitchen. Just a few days ago, Sheriff and Mrs. Appley were eating lunch when a snake fell out of the ceiling.
“With the condition of the jail what it is,” Appley said, “there isn’t any way to keep the place in good order.”
— reprinted from the Gallatin North Missourian, Nov. 6, 1975