Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 11 September 2012 15:02
Accommodations in the new Marion County Jail will differ according to the needs of the prisoner. Prisoners who are considered less of a threat can be housed together in the larger pod (middle photo) while small cells (bottom) are available for less
Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said he was pleased with the number of people attending the new jail’s open house Friday and Saturday.
More than 500 Marion County residents took the tour, Craft said, which was higher than he had anticipated.
“Everything commented to me was positive (about the new facility),” he said. “I was also pleased that people came to see what the project was and the type of facility it is going to be—clean, safe and orderly run.”
The 13,600-square-foot jail will not only provide more prison cells, Craft said, but the ability to monitor inmates and water, which is the biggest safety issue.
“The water situation at the old jail was limited—trickling rather than flowing from sinks,” he said.
Another feature with the new jail’s technology is that any section can be shut down, which was not possible at the old facility.
“The new jail will also allow us to better accommodate the number of prisoners and the ability to segregate some if needed,” Craft said.
The pod-type layout offers inmates a chance to move outside their cell. In the old jail, inmates had nowhere to go.
“We can’t just lock someone in a little room for 24 hours a day,” he said.
One television will be available in each pod, but those were not installed prior to the tour.
“The television will keep inmates occupied,” he said. “I did hear a couple of people who didn’t think a television was needed.”
Craft noted the televisions would not offer cable channels, but instead whatever comes over the local antenna.
“The options will be limited,” he said.
“We have a place giving officers the ability to submit evidence with controls—something we don’t have now,” Craft said.
With officers working different shifts, he said, the new system will make it easier to maintain the chain of custody.
A computer is available to log items in and out, making it easier to go to a particular piece of evidence.
The new jail’s sally port is flat and level, Craft said, with room for medical personnel in the event of emergencies.
“It will just be so much better,” he said.
Although an in-house laundry and kitchen is a drawback for the businesses previously providing those services, it will be an advantage to the jailers by keeping the inmates busy and responsible.
“It will also be more efficient for the county,” he said. “Some prisoners won’t be allowed out to do laundry or (kitchen work), but we will have some that can do these things on a regular basis.”
Craft said he hopes to move the sheriff’s office and jail into the new facility by mid-October.
Marion County Dispatch will not move into the new facility until it has a tower for communications.
Craft said three new jailers were hired, making a total of five correction staff available to oversee the facility 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
“Dispatchers are the second set of eyes (at the jail) and until they move in, we need to figure out how to create a second set of eyes,” he said.
“It’s almost a finished product,” Craft said about the jail. “Most of the furnishing at the old jail will be moved and what is lacking will be purchased.”
During the tour, visitors were allowed to wander through every section of the new jail. Families and staff involved with the jail donated cookies and refreshments. Craft said more than 54 dozen homemade cookies provided for the event.
For more information about the new jail, call the Marion County Sheriff’s office at 620-382-2144.