The McClain County Detention Center is licensed by the state to house 53 prisoners.

On Tuesday, there were 104 men and women behind its bars.

The sheriff’s office was paying $1,052 per day to house 24 other McClain County prisoners in other jails.

And Sheriff Don Hewett was looking at sending others elsewhere as soon as he can find another jail to take them.

That in one nutshell is why McClain County needs the proposed public safety complex.

The overcrowding in the existing jail is constant, Hewett said, and precipitates a flood of rising operational costs.

Too many inmates creates a safety issue, the sheriff said, and that requires more detention officers.

Costs spiral upward with no signs of stopping.

The state inspects the jail monthly and every month it is written up for the overcrowding.

Hewett said so far inspectors have backed off on levying heavy fines or ordering the jail closed.

But there’s no guarantee how long that will continue.

Hewett believes as long as his office and the county commissioners are trying to alleviate the problem, the write-ups and warnings will continue.

“I really think once we quit trying to do something, they will come down on us hard,” he said.

The county has scheduled an election for a $23.75 million bond issue on November 12 to build the new complex on land northwest of Purcell on State Highway 74.

The center will be 50,605 square feet and will house the sheriff’s department, jail, emergency management and 911 call center.

The proposed state-of-the-art facility will be able to house up to 220 inmates.

Hewett is hoping the voters realize the need.

“I’m hearing more positive (comments) in the past week than before,” he said.

He said a Purcell man came to his office Tuesday just to tell the sheriff he understands the need and will help anyway he can to see the measure passes.

There is also a group of citizens in Blanchard supporting the bond issue and spreading the word in that part of the county.

“The key will be we have to get the yes voters out,” Hewett said. “This is a stand-alone election.”

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