Howard County looks at new jail
Wed, 03/15/2017 - 2:22pm admin
—Part 4: Plans call for new jail to be barless
By Marcie Klomp News Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Howard County Jail Open House March 18 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Howard County - Yes! Howard County is joining other jails in the state and going barless!
The proposed facility will have no bars, just shatter-resistant windows and steel doors, which are much safer for inmates.
When a person is brought to jail, it is usually a very traumatic moment in his or her life. Inmates may feel they have no recourse but to end their misery.
The old-fashioned bar system gives them the opportunity to attempt suicide by hanging, which happens 1-2 times every 3-4 years, said Sheriff Mike Miner.
Luckily with video and safety rules in place, nobody has completed the act in the local jail. But if just one person is successful, it will cost the county a lot more than the $4.9 million price tag of a new facility.
Although an inmate’s safety is important, it is secondary to the safety of the Sheriff and staff.
The proposed facility will allow staff to lock and unlock cells and all sections of the building from the safety of the dispatch center.
There may not be any windows looking outside from the jail area, but there are plenty inside. The E-911/Dispatch area is in the center of the jail cells, and there are shatter-resistant windows all around.
This will allow the communication officers/jailers to see inside the cells from the dispatch center as well as through the video camera system.
The jail will contain five cells for different classifications.
Over the years regulations have required jails to have separate areas for male and female offenders, as well as segregated areas for general and maximum security inmates. That equals four classifications to house inmates in the proposed facility.
John Hansen, of Midwest Construction Consultants, has suggested a minimum of five classified areas.
The special status area, with two cells, includes individuals of whom violence is reasonably anticipated, those who are a health risk to others, those with sexually deviant behavior, inmates who could be exploited or victimized by others (an individual who looks 16-years-old or younger), subjects with transmittable diseases, those on suicide watch or individuals who have committed sexual crimes.
There is also an area for holding cells for overnighters or those waiting for their initial hearing.
All-in-all, the new jail facility will have eight beds for male general population and six beds for females; male max will have three beds and females will have space for two; the holding cell, which includes a padded detox cell, totals three occupants; and there are two cells for special status. That makes a total of 24 beds available.
There are six beds available in a future swing dorm area, for a total of 30 beds. In addition, built into the architecture plans is a future work release area that could hold six beds making the grand total of possibly 36 beds.
There will be skylights in the pods and an area where the inmates can get the outside breeze, which is a requirement by law.
Other jail areas
Other areas of the jail portion of the building include a sally port, where law enforcement will be able to drive inside the building and close the doors to transfer a prisoner from the vehicle to the building.
There will be booking and search rooms that do not share their space for other uses as happens in the current structure.
There is also a laundry area, storage area, mechanical room, restrooms and kitchen. A small room is available for visiting attorneys.
With the proposed jail, visitations will be done by video. There will be a small room where inmates and visitors can communicate via video in a semi-private area. There will be no possibility of passing contraband to the inmate since there will be no personal contact.
The conditions in the administrative part of the building will be a huge step up from what staff is currently accustomed to.
Emergency Management will be moved from the basement to an office with a window! Right next door would be an emergency operations center, which would triple as a training and meeting room.
The sheriff will have his own office with a door that locks. Currently Miner’s office serves as the records area and is accessed through the booking room, kitchen, back door and upstairs.
Single offices will also be available for the chief deputy, supervisor, civil administrator and jail administrator. The squad room will be much larger than the current area and hold eight cubicles.
Other rooms will be record storage, mechanical, public restroom, evidence storage, armory, restroom/locker room and two interview rooms,
The outside of the new facility is designed to use the same colors and brick to match the historic courthouse.
The garage on the southeast corner of the property will stay in place.
The task force formed back in December 2015 is very pleased with the outcome of the facility.
Members, along with Miner and other staff members and Hansen, looked over all the wants and needs of the Sheriff’s Department. Hansen has the experience to know what areas are required or suggested and what the state regulations demand.
He then figured out a square footage for each space. Areas were increased or decreased in size or deleted as the bottom dollar and the impact on taxpayers was addressed. Architect Rick Weidner put it all together in a 14,000 sq. ft. design.
The task force looked at several locations to build and settled on the current area. First of all, the county already owns the property. It is also much more convenient and safe for transferring inmates from the jail to the courthouse for hearings.
Anyone wishing to learn more about the proposed new jail facility can contact a task force member or Sheriff Mike Miner.
Or a person can attend a local town hall meeting and/or attend a jail open house.
Jail Open House
March 18: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
April 22: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
March 23: Lime Springs City Hall, 7 p.m.
March 30: Featherlite Center, Cresco, 7 p.m.
April 4: Protivin City Hall, 7 p.m.
April 6: Elma City Hall, 7 p.m.
April 18: Chester City Hall, 7 p.m.
April 20: Featherlite Center, Cresco, 7 p.m.
April 25: Riceville City Hall, 7 p.m.
Look for Part 5 in next week’s Times Plain Dealer. Photos of the jail open house and miscellaneous pieces of information will be explored.