Chambers County eyeing detention facility expansion and renovation

CHAMBERS COUNTY, Ala. — The Chambers County Detention Facility is close to hitting the ripe age of 30. The building has held up remarkably well, but like any building of that age, it is beginning to show wear and tear.

In an effort to plan for the next 25 to 30 years, the facility hopes to expand and undergo a renovation. The changes will be in three phases. The first phase, which is going on now is the relocation of the impound lot from the jail to across the street. Once the land is clear, that will make way for a $4.7 million dormitory construction. It will be three dorms that hold 40 people each. These dorms will be reserved for minimum security inmates, and will allow the separation of violent and non-violent women inmates. Currently, all women are in the same block regardless of their charges.

“Anyone that has a violent crime and non-violent crime, we need to have those separated for safety reasons,” Maj. Clay Stewart said. “Obviously, you want to keep people who are violent felons away from people that are minor crimes. You don’t want those two classifications in the same cell block.”

The dormitory construction is expected to take two years, but once it is finished, the renovations inside the jail can get underway. Renovations include electrical, piping, a new nurses station, laundry room and more.

Sheriff Sid Lockhart said these upgrades are much needed, and added it will make things easier and safer on jail personnel.

“We’re having to put band-aids on it basically, and you keep having to replace a lot of items because of water damage, or such as that,” Sheriff Lockhart said. “It will absolutely save money.”

“You won’t have to deal with the threat of water on the floor and slipping,” Maj. Stewart said. “You won’t have to deal with constantly having to move inmates around because you have problems with the sewer, and we have to call in a contractor to come in and fix it. The electrical systems will work. The lighting will be better. Overall, their safety and working conditions will improve tremendously.”

Major Stewart added that since 2012, treatment beds available to inmates with mental illness have been reduced 64% from 740 beds to 268 beds for the entire state. He said an expansion could pave the way for the jail to place inmates with mental illness in their own section suited to their needs. He also added that the expansion could allow for space to provide workspace and education centers to allow inmates to obtain GED’s, employment training and more.

Maximum security inmates will remain in the current jail once the new dorms are complete, but during renovations, Sheriff Lockhart said some inmates may have to be moved to surrounding jails.

The county commission is expected to vote on the expansion within a couple weeks.

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