Highlands County Sheriff's Office and Detention Facility History
The Highlands County Sheriff's Office was created by legislative act in 1921. The original jail was opened in early 1924 and housed 32 inmates. In 1957 a new jail was constructed to house 82 inmates, and at this time the agency expanded its employment to a total of 10 employees, including Deputy Sheriffs, Correctional Officers, and Dispatchers. Continued growth of the county required yet another expansion in 1985, adding 60 inmate beds to provide a total capacity of 142 inmates. Overcrowding during the early 90's required additional inmate housing. In 1996 an addition and renovation of the existing jail increased inmate capacity to 316. The newest addition at the detention facility opened in 2004 and increased inmate capacity to 512.
Highlands County population increased from 39,517 in 1974 to 80,458 in 1998 and most recently to 100,207 in 2008. Along with population increases calls for service have increased accordingly. In 1974 there were 9,990 calls for service; in 2008 deputies responded to 121,911 calls for service, and 73,954 911 calls for service. Currently Highlands County is home to 98,955 people. In 2012 Sheriff's Office personnel handled 76,914 requests for service and booked 4,744 suspects into the Highlands County Jail. Your Sheriff's Office currently employs 224 sworn law enforcement and detention members and 121 civilian support members.
Highlands County is located in the south central part of Florida and is within 100 miles of 85% of the major population centers in the State, which makes travel through Highlands County constant. There are 1,028 square miles within the jurisdictional limits of the county where the Sheriff's Office is responsible for maintaining public safety. There are over 1,200 miles of roadway that the County maintains and the Sheriff's Office patrols on a daily basis.
General Andrew Jackson accepted Florida from Spain on July 10th 1821. President James Monroe appointed Jackson Military Governor. Jackson established the first two counties; Escambia and St. Johns. Basically dividing the state in two. In each county General Jackson appointed a Sheriff, thus establishing the office of Sheriff in each county.
Florida's first constitution, adopted in 1845 when Florida joined the Union, created the office of Sheriff as an elected official in each county. The concepts of "county" and "Sheriff" were essentially the same as they had been during the previous 900 years of English legal history. Because the English heritage of the American colonies, the new United States had adopted the English law and legal institutions as its own.
Florida's constitution has been revised several times through the years, but the constitutional provisions establishing the office of Sheriff remains the same as it was in 1845, which, in turn, is strikingly similar to the functioning of the office of Sheriff at the time of Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror. The major difference, of course, is that the Kings of England appointed their Sheriffs. From the earliest times in America, our Sheriffs have been elected by the people to serve as the principal law enforcement officer of each county. There were some exceptions to this immediately after the Civil War, in which Sheriffs in the southern states were appointed by the state governors due to the reconstruction process.