Workers are putting in flooring and installing cabinets and lockers now.
Scioto County Sheriff's Jailer Capt. David Hall, who has been overseeing the design and construction, said he expects a mid-March opening of the Scioto County Law Enforcement Center.
“This is the Cadillac of jails,” Hall said of the new facility. Hall, Sheriff Marty Donini and the county commissioners toured various newly built jails to find out what the staff thought worked well and what needed to be changed. The plans for the jail were changed to reflect what they learned. “I'm sure back in 1927, the other jail used to be the Cadillac.”
The old jail, on the top floor of the Scioto County Courthouse, houses 90 inmates. The new facility will house 186 inmates. Inmates will be divided by gender and whether they are violent or non-violent offenders.
Hall is in the middle of doing interviews for new jail staff.
Once the new employees are hired, they and deputies will go through a three-week training, and then there will be an orientation so everyone is up to speed on the keyless entries and the computer systems that will monitor inmates, fire, smoke and when someone enters or exits the building.
Another upgrade will be in the county's 911 dispatching, which will also be housed in the center. Once the systems are online, when someone calls in on a cell phone, dispatchers will be able to tell where they are.
“Right now, if someone calls in on a cell phone, their information comes up as unavailable,” Hall said. “With the upgrade, we can tell right where they are.”
Frequent jail visitors will notice several changes. One of the first is that inmates will no longer be able to bring in their “own whites” - clothing like underwear, socks and T-shirts.
“They'll have to buy them from commissary and we'll wash them here,” Hall said.
The purpose of the measure is to cut down on contraband items, mainly cigarettes and other tobacco products. The jail is a non-smoking facility.
“Now in the jail, we don't fight drugs like we used to,” Hall said. “We fight tobacco products. If they can get it in, a cigarette goes for $9, a pack will go for $200.”
Money from the commissary is used to pay for mattresses, pillows, blankets and the van that takes them to and from court.
Inmates will also have little time outside the jail. They will be brought in through a sally port into a garage, and once inside, they stay in until they are released.
Visitors, including family, will talk to the inmate in cubicles, and they will be separated by glass. Arraignments will now be done through teleconference between the jail and the Portsmouth Municipal Court. An outside recreational area is a bricked-in area with no view of the neighborhood, and there is razor wire over the rec yard.
Hall said the inmates will get a more structured life.
“Whether they want it or not, they are going to get it here,” he said. Inmates will get up at 5:30 a.m. and go to bed at 10:30 p.m. They will have duties such as cleaning their areas or laundry. They will have the opportunity to get their high school degree or attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous.
The total construction cost of building the jail and sheriff's office is around $12 million.
Hall said the old jail will be kept open for 30-45 days to get rid of the waiting list of non-violent offenders who have been ordered to serve jail time but haven't because of overcrowding.