Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Jail Won't Have Country Club Atmosphere

Inmates will be controlled and surveilled by video cameras

"Why do we have to build a hotel for these people?" - indignant taxpayer

You are a resident of the Metroplex, out to have yourself a
ball playing at Lake Whitney with family and friends over
the weekend.

Somehow, you forget yourself and get caught speeding down a
country road on the Bosque side of the lake, an open can of
cold beer between your legs. You've been drinking steadily
since Friday afternoon.

You are arrested for DWI, given a field sobriety test, taken
into custody, your car towed. You submit to a breath-a-
lyzer. The test shows you are well on the guilty side of
.08 breath alcohol content.

You are booked into the new Bosque County Jail, possibly to
be completed by the winter of 2011 as an unfunded mandate of
the Texas Commission on Jail Standards at a projected cost
to taxpayers of $9.75 million.

You bail is set by a Justice of the Peace. But no one back
in Big D or Cowtown is at the house and you are stuck for
the rest of the weekend in jail.

What will it be like to spend time in the new Bosque County
Jail now under consideration?

It won't be pleasant, by any means.

The proposed lockup will be far from a hotel or a country

In fact, it will be a cheerless reinforced concrete bunker
in which every aspect of an inmate's life is surveilled,
videotaped, recorded by audio microphones, and the bare
bones details of your period of incarceration preserved for
future reference.

An inmate's movements will be completely controlled by
electronic means. Other than the entry and exit doors, there
will be few barriers to movement, but that movement will be
tightly controlled from a bullet-proof, fire-proof central
control booth staffed by officers with their eyes on the
monitors, their ears cocked to the speakers, and their
attention completely focused on what the inmates are doing
from moment to moment.

The whole thrust of architect Jeffrey Heffelfinger's design
is to save taxpayers money that would ordinarily be spent on
increased staffing requirments for officers who must be
certified both as corrections specialists and peace

That's why the floor plan is laid on an "open" basis,
requiring no staff to shift prisoners from the bunking cells
to the visiting department, the medical facility, the dining
room or the recreational area.

Designed to hold 64 inmates to start with, the proposed
$9.75 million facility is fully expandable to 96 beds to
meet future requirements based on projections extrapolated
from daily arrest and lockup records maintained for the
Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Air conditioning can be turned off or, if it becomes
inoperative, supposedly won't be missed much by inmates and
staff who occupy the structure under its heavily insulated
roof and within its eight-inch thick solid steel-reinforced

Electrical power will be maintained by a diesel generating
system should commercial electrical service be interrupted.
The facility will have its own well for the purpose of
watering the lawns and doing routine chores such as washing
patrol cars, clothing and cleaning. Should water services
fail, it will serve as a backup.

It's a self-contained prison with video and electronic
surveillance twenty-four hours a day. What services are not
immediately provided, such as "Tele-Court," where inmates
need not be transported to the courthouse for hearings,
arraignments and motions; "Tele-Visiting," which will be
accomplished by an inmate sitting in a certain seat in his
cell and facing a video camera where they can see a
television screen upon which friends, attorneys and family
members are electronically depicted from a remote area of
the law enforcement center; and telephone communications
provided from an area of the lockup that does not require an
escort to a special place to make calls. All this will be
pre-wired and ready for installation of the business end of
these devices when necessary.

It's a lot cheaper to have the cables in place when you

From the moment an inmate arrives in the back seat of a
patrol car wheeled into the "sallyport" area - secured by
electronic locks and under video surveillance - he will be
under the tight control of corrections officers. No
contraband or weapons will ever get inside the jail because
all searches and booking will be made in the limbo of outer
area and the inmates then led into the open spaces of the
inner lockup. An inmate can't get out and he can't get in
without the officers inside releasing the locks from the
central control booth.

The sallyport will also double as a search area for
impounded vehicles while crime scene specialists go over
them with a fine toothed comb.

Medical visits will not require a trip to the local health
care facilities. Most escapes take place when an inmate has
been taken to a medical facility.

Nurse practitioners and physicians will come to the jail and
perform their services in the medical room located inside
the lockup.

"Everything is designed to save expense for staffing," Mr.
Heffelfinger says as he presents each new detail. Aside
from the costs of construction and debt service on
financing, the single largest expense is staffing the
facility 24 hours a day, weekends, holidays and staff
vacations included.

Night dispatching for county deputies, city police and
volunteer fire departments combined may be handled by
corrections staff who never really have to leave the
security of their control booth.

Having stayed in a number of luxury hotels, The Legendary
knows that none of them even remotely resemble this planned

In the first place, at country clubs and hotels, the guests
have the privilege of choosing with whom they will and will
not associate.

At the new jail, one will have to take pot luck with whoever
comes through the sallyport in cuffs, belly chains and leg
irons. One totally loses the freedom of association
guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution once he or she has been
placed in custodial detention.

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