As the population of the area decreases, the number of people incarcerated has risen. The first census for Henry County was in 1790. There were 8,479 people recorded as living here. The population has increased steadily until the 2000 census when it peaked at 57,930. In 2010 the population had dropped 6.5 percent and over the next 6 years, another 5 percent. The estimated population as of 2016 was 51,445.
Why is it then, that a jail built in 1974 to house 67 inmates, when the population was about the same as it is today, is not nearly big enough?
Henry County incarcerates over 175 inmates at a time. They are building a $69 million dollar, 400-bed jail at the old DuPont site due to open in four years. Until then, the County pays other localities half a million dollars a year to keep our inmates. An argument could be made it’s still the cheaper route. It would take 140 years to spend as much as the new jail costs sending inmates to other jails.
But housing inmates has become a form of income for localities with extra space, and the Board of Supervisors are betting other localities will house their inmates here and then we can charge them.
Henry County built the jail we currently use to house 67 inmates, considered to be an adequate number for the present and foreseeable future. By comparison, Henry County jails 3 times as many people as it did 40 years ago.
Nationally those in jail has grown 4 fold while the number of people in prison has grown 5 times, making the United States with the highest percentage of its population in jail than any other country in the world. According to the Sentencing Project, based in Washington, DC, as of 2015, we jail 670 people out of 100,000. The closest to us is Russia with 439 and the Rwanda with 434. China is is at 118 and India is only 30. Over 2.2 million people are in jail or prison in the United States and another 4.7 million are either on probation or parole.
Make no mistake, incarceration in America has become a big business and Henry County intends to cash in.