BEEVILLE – There are no bars in this jail.
“That is outdated technology,” said Chief Deputy Ronnie Jones.
Instead, concrete walls and a steel door keep inmates securely locked inside.
The cells in this $25 million jail and sheriff’s office are under constant monitoring thanks to a second floor “eye in the sky” system of windows. One person can monitor all of the cells in this wing.
But this isn’t all the cells.
Down another hall are two 10-man dorms.
Another area houses single-room cells — again without windows to the outside — for any inmate who “for any number of reasons has to be separated from the general population,” Jones said.
This, though, is just touching on the modern features on this building which should be completed soon.
A drop ceiling hides the wiring, pipes and air conditioning ducts throughout the building — except the jail cells where everything is concrete and all piping is done well out of reach of inmates.
Inside the main part of the building, the halls wind like strings of spaghetti.
Down one end is a sally port — an area where suspects are brought into the jail.
Sheriff Alden Southmayd said, “Your peace officers won’t come past here,” he said pointing to the end of the room. “Once they get here, the jail staff takes over.
“It is not that we don’t want them in here.
“We want to get the officers back out on the street.”
This area is large enough to hold three parked patrol cars and a bus.
Down another hallway is a courtroom where inmates can be arraigned and appear before a judge for any number of trial needs.
“That is going to save in fuel and time,” Southmayd said. Currently, inmates are brought to the courthouse where they wait, sometimes for several hours, before seeing a judge.
Jones said this is a security issue.
“That is three or four hours they (inmates) have to think about what to do,” Jones said.
A secure entrance keeps the judge safe, and visitors can attend the hearings, when permitted by law, from behind glass.
Back at the sheriff’s officer, the dispatcher room is larger and better equipped to handle additional personnel.
The county is increasing its staff from six to nine dispatchers, ensuring that two are always ready to take calls, 24/7.
An additional 16 jailers will be needed to fully staff this new facility.
Design of the jail, such as the ability to see into five cells at once, is reducing the number of jailers needed to monitor the additional inmates.
The new jail will hold 143 inmates, compared to the current facility which holds 128.
Outside, the new look is still a work in progress.
The blue walls will stay, but many of the features, such as a backlit star along the southern wall, have yet to go up.
“The appearance looks good,” said Commissioner Sammy Farias. “I am liking it.”
“I am really excited. I think it is going to be great,” the sheriff adds. “There are going to be bugs that need to be worked out. But it will be nice having a jail that just functions.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at media@mySouTex.com.