New Cole County Jail Debated

1 decade 3 years 4 months ago Friday, November 11 2005 Nov 11, 2005 Friday, November 11, 2005 7:05:20 AM CST November 11, 2005 in News

Some people say the existing one has security problems.  For example inmates get dropped off in front of a door that, in a modern-day jail, would be inside a secure garage.  Instead it's outside and only a few feet from a day care drop off area.

There are problems inside as well.  An inmate with leg irons has to walk down a set of stairs and through a narrow hallway to get from jail cell to courtroom.  On the way, jailers face more security issues.

"Once we get on the elevator, we're opened out to the main courthouse, we have to walk prisoners right by people who may be there for adoption, or may be there for name change or whatever and the person walking by them may be here for murder," said jail administrator Russ Bemboom.

Inside, jailers use a video camera to keep an eye on inmates, but the cameras can't see everything.

"It's only in day areas, it's not in the bedrooms, it's not in the bathrooms," Bemboom said.

Last February voters rejected a plan to rebuild a new jail.  Now a new citizen advisory committee in charge of improving law enforcement will take a second look at this issue.

"I think that's what we'll investigate.  To see if there is a legitimate need and if the cost is identified by the commission are the right costs," committee chairman Henry Hungerbeeler said.

Commissioner Bob Jones said there is another issue to consider:

"Hopefully the committee, that should be one of the main things that they would deal with if they decide that a jail should be built--where are we going to put it?"

The committee plans to tour the jail and interview the sheriff in the next few weeks.  The new jail would cost about $15 million to build and would be about 3 times the size of the old jail with about 150 cells.

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