JUNE 4, 2010 -- Renovations to help better maximize space at the Jackson County Detention Center are nearing completion. The sixth floor of the Detention Center's eight-story tower is being remodeled to better accommodate inmates classified as needing "medical/mental housing."
Originally used as a kitchen when the Center opened in 1984, the sixth floor had been used for storage for more than a decade -- ever since an annex, featuring a new kitchen, was built as an addition to the tower in the mid-1990s.
Rather than in separate cells, Jackson County inmates on the renovated sixth floor will be housed in an open barracks-style space allowing for more direct supervision.
"After the annex opened, the sixth floor of the tower was essentially abandoned, in terms of it being used for inmates," said Corrections Department Director Ken Conlee. "It was used only for storage until we started working on this project. Now when we've got these renovations done, we'll be making good use of that space to house inmates." (Inmates are expected to be moved to the renovated sixth-floor the week of June 7.)
On average, 20 percent of the Detention Center's inmates require physical or mental health services. "That's a fluid number that goes up and down," Conlee said. "Using the sixth floor will help us alleviate any overflow we have of these inmates. It'll also allow us to more efficiently supervise and serve these inmates."
The remodeled sixth floor will be able to house as many as 60 inmates under one Corrections Officer's direct supervision in an open-space, barracks-style unit with bunk beds rather than individual jail cells. If the need arises, an expansion to allow for a capacity of 80 inmates could be done.
The $500,000 project is being finished on time and on budget. It's being paid for through a provision in the County Health Fund that allotted money for a one-time capital improvement project.
"Our Corrections Department continues to do an exceptionak job under Ken's leadership to run a more efficient and effective Detention Center," stated County Executive Mike Sanders. "From bringing down the costs of housing inmates to opening and operating the new Regional Correctional Center, Ken and his staff are being excellent stewards of taxpayer dollars. At the same time, they've never wavered from making safety their top priority. The Jackson County Detention Center has fast become a model for other correctional facilities to emulate."
Remodeling the sixth floor, first required Corrections staff and inmate crews to do "demolition" work in the form of removing remnants of the old kitchen. While contractor J.E. Dunn has done much of the renovation work, the County further saved money on the project through having County technicians install new plumbing.
Moving inmates now housed primarily on the second floor to the sixth floor will have a domino effect. The cell space opening up on the second floor will be used for female inmates currently on the eighth floor in an area once reserved for inmate exercise.
"We're taking what was just storage space -- the sixth floor -- and making it a working, functional space to house inmates," Conlee said. "We're creating a more adequate space for medical/mental inmates, where they'll be under direct supervision. We're freeing up the space on the eight floor to be used as it was intended to be -- an inmate exercise area. We're doing all this without having to increase staff."