After a $2.7 million remodeling project, a new section of the Jackson County Jail intended to house 62 more inmates is open for business.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters cut the ribbon on the two new wings in the jail's basement this morning. The remodeling adds 9,881 square feet to the jail's total size and brings its capacity to 292 inmates. Jail officials said they hope this boost will lessen the number of forced releases due to overcrowding. In 2013, about 43 percent of the 11,482 offenders lodged in jail were quickly released because of space constraints.
"As everybody knows, the jail has been overcrowded," said jail commander Lt. Dan Penland. "These will provide some relief to us. We're hoping to keep our population down to where we can significantly cut any forced releases from the facility."
Jail construction was paid for with Jackson County capital projects dollars, with no dip into the general fund, sheriff's department officials said. The jail also receives additional revenue from renting beds to federal agencies needing to house their own offenders.
Winters praised the county's board of commissioners and budget committee and County Administrator Danny Jordan for their support in completing the new space.
"They're the ones that are truly making this a safer place," Winters said.
Seven corrections deputies have been added to the jail payroll to staff the new pods.
The jail's new east wing will hold 24 inmates, who will be housed in six cells with four-person capacities. The west wing will hold an additional 32 in a dormitory-style space with six separation cells. There will also be six additional one-person cells in a lockdown area for inmates with mental health issues or who need to be isolated from the rest of the jail's population.
"We're hoping to keep it low-level offenders, those that are low-risk, low-risk to the staff, low-risk for causing problems," Penland said of the new wings. "A good portion of them we hope will be involved in some type of drug and alcohol treatment program that we're going to start providing, something we haven't provided for a few years. This is going to allow us to do that."
The expansion also boasts a new multi-purpose room for inmates needing medical attention. The room also will soon serve as the space inmates are brought for video arraignments with Jackson County Circuit Court judges.
Construction on the expansion started after the sheriff's department moved its offices from the jail basement to its new headquarters on Highway 62 in June 2012. The former office space in the basement was gutted and rebuilt as additional jail space.
— Ryan Pfeil