The Franklin County commissioners and sheriff recently broke ground on a new county jail at a ceremony on the city’s west side. The first phase of the project will include almost 900 beds for inmates, cost approximately $175 million, and is set to open in late 2019. Phase one will allow the county to close the current downtown jail facility, which first opened in 1969, and additional future construction will eventually total more than 2,000 beds and lead to the closure of the other current Franklin County jail facility on Jackson Pike.
“This jail is a legacy project,” said Board of Commissioners president John O’Grady. “It’s a piece of county-owned infrastructure that will serve the residents of Franklin County for 50 years or more, and it will be such an improvement for staff and inmates, as well as for the community, over the old facility which is well past due for replacement.”
The new Franklin County Corrections Center will incorporate the latest jail design philosophies and be built to utilize the Direct Supervision model of inmate supervision. The commissioners have also tasked the project team with achieving LEED-Silver certification for the new facility.
“The new jail will allow us to expand programing for real rehabilitation,” said Commissioner Marilyn Brown. “The inmates will eventually return to our communities, so it’s in everyone’s interest to offer them mental health services, addiction treatment, and vocational programs while they’re with us so they have the best chance at success when they get out.”
Phase one of the jail construction will include 16 individual housing units, or pods, including specialized units for orientation, mental health, behavioral, medical, and maximum security. The building will encompass about 430,000 square feet of space, and the construction site is approximately 24 acres.
“This project will employ up to 800 workers at its peak, and plow almost $200 million back into our economy,” said Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce. “It will also serve generations of Franklin County residents, making all of us more secure and providing a safe, modern jail at the same time.”
The new jail is designed to utilize a new objective classification system that will allow staff to sort inmates based on their risk and by the services they may require. Currently, inmates are housed based on the nature of the crime for which they are charged, which the sheriff says isn’t always the best classification system. Providing treatment and programing to the inmates is one of the ways officials hope to rehabilitate them and give them options other than reoffending once they return to the community.
“Effective rehabilitation of inmates means doing things differently to help prevent them from returning, “ said Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. “By classifying and housing inmates differently, and providing treatment and programs designed to prevent recidivism, we are creating a safer Franklin County.”
The county will fund construction of the jail via proceeds of a quarter-cent sales tax enacted in 2013, which will also fund construction of a new morgue, or Forensic Science Center, on the south side of Franklin County, as well as some economic development, workforce training, and environmental sustainability loans.