The Chatham County Sheriff’s Department is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the United States having been established in 1732. The title of Sheriff was not adopted until 1788. Up until this time the position was known as a Bailiff and later Provost. The Office of the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county and must be elected every four years.
At one time, there were separate sheriffs for Superior, State, and Magistrate court. In 1985 all three sheriff’s departments were combined to form the Department we have today.
The Office of the Sheriff is mandated by law to perform certain functions for the County. One of which is to maintain the County Detention Center. The Sheriff is also mandated to execute all warrants, civil processes, subpoenas, and writs delivered to him by the courts. The Chatham County Sheriff's Department currently provides this service Recorders, Magistrate, State, Probate, and Superior Courts.
The Corrections Bureau of the Chatham County Sheriff's Department, and its inmate population, has significantly evolved over the past 30 years. For 90 years the jail was located on Habersham Street next to the Police Department. Its capacity was approximately 300 inmates and averaged about 270 inmates daily.
In 1978, the jail was moved to Montgomery Street next to the Chatham County Judicial Complex. This facility had an inmate capacity of 381 inmates. Unfortunately, this facility was not large enough and as a result we were soon exceeding our capacity. As a result, that facility was placed under a federal court order that set a maximum amount of inmates allowed. It became necessary to expand our capacity to satisfy the court order. In 1988 the Chatham County Detention Center opened off of Chatham Parkway and in 1989 it became necessary to expand that facility to handle the volume of inmates we were receiving. We moved into the Chatham County Sheriff’s Complex in 1993 and the Detention Center was tied in to make up the 5 unit facility.