The McClain County Jail population regularly exceeds capacity, especially on weekends, and Sheriff Don Hewett hopes a remodeling project will buy space and time for county commissioners to come up with a better solution.
On Monday morning, the jail housed 75 prisoners - more than double its capacity, Hewett told the commissioners.
Because the remodel is expected to cost more than $10,000, the county must advertise for bids. The sheriff was asked to furnish bid specifications to the commissioners at next week’s meeting.
The remodel can be bid as a “turn-key” project with a construction manager overseeing all phases and hiring subcontractors.
“I would like to expedite it,” he added.
Hewett said the jail overcrowding has been ongoing for some time.
When the existing jail was designed and built, all parties signed off on it being a 60-bed facility, Hewett said.
However, during a jail inspection three years ago, the jail was remeasured and found wanting.
The state requires 40-square-feet of floor space for the first inmate in a cell. For each additional inmate, the required square footage increases by 20.
Thus, a three-prisoner cell has to be 80 square feet.
The McClain County jail cells were three square feet shy of that, Hewett said.
And that dropped the capacity from 60 to 37.
The area Hewett wants remodeled was previously used as the office for his department’s detectives.
The proposed remodeling project would utilize that space as a dormitory-style cell, gaining 18 more beds.
Hewett said part of the problem is that McClain County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state.
In part, the proposed remodel would involve installing a sewer line connecting the room to the line servicing the jail, closing off one door and installing a door in another wall, putting in a security ceiling, installing plumbing and removing electrical and telephone outlets.
Inspectors haven’t issued orders or put the county on notice because of overcrowding in the jail.
“This would give us some relief back there,” Hewett said. “It’s a band-aid. But at least we’re trying.”