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Friday, May 6, 2016

New Izard County jail opens

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Nine inmates have been transported from the Izard County jail to the new detention center which opened Aug. 4 on Highway 9 spur in Melbourne across from Century Flooring.

Construction started April 25, 2002, on the new jail, which can hold 32 inmates, including a cellblock for six women, said Izard County Judge Eddie Cooper.

The new jail is funded by a 1-percent sales tax in Izard County.

Cooper said the old facility could hold only nine male inmates; women had to be transported to other facilities.

The new facility has a central control room which can monitor all areas of the jail through use of a camera system. Central control will also be in charge of electronic locks in the cellblocks, sallyport and other secured areas.

Dispatch has its own area in the new building. A large booking area also includes an isolation cell which is accessible from the sallyport, Cooper said.

A secure visitation area permits no contact between visitors and inmates; it prevents visitors from bringing contraband into the jail, Cooper said. It also has a secure outdoor exercise yard which can be monitored at all times and is enclosed by a chainlink fence.

The new facility also has a holding cell, interview room, shower and changing area for new inmates, an inmate personal property storage area and a "drunk tank." The holding cells have concrete floors which allows the cells to be easily cleaned, Cooper added.

The administration side of the facility has a large reception room, three offices for deputies and an office for the sheriff. The jail also contains a large evidence room with reinforced metal walls.

A new district courtroom and judge's office is housed in the facility.

Kitchen facilities include equipment to prepare homecooked meals.

Cooper said the jail was built after a petition was filed by the state to close the old jail in August 2002 because of the failure by the county to bring the jail into compliance with state standards.

Problems with the old facility included no secure area for visitation, no indoor or outdoor exercise area, poor lighting and exit availability. The cells had to be manually locked and unlocked, which created safety concerns for employees and inmates. Also, juveniles charged as adults could not be separated from the general population, and prisoners could not be separated by class (felony or misdemeanor). And the jail lacked two exits, it did not have an alcohol unit (drunk tank), or observation cell for inmates on suicide watch, and had inadequate space for administration and food handling.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Aug. 2 with many officials in attendance, Cooper said.

Cooper said, "We are really proud of it. It's something we were forced to do, but the end result was a good thing."

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