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New Jackson County jail set to open Oct. 1 with control rooms over all pods

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PASCAGOULA, Mississippi — The new Jackson County jail, set to open Oct. 1, has a master control room that will oversee control rooms, self-contained cells with individual locks and new ways to keep inmates contained and in place.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1f9ngXG) the new jail is 104,000 square feet. It's a labyrinth of cell groupings that cluster around control rooms, which in turn form pods with the master control room over all the pods.

From that central brain of the jail, control operators will be able to lock or unlock doors, cordon off hallways and even adjust air conditioning in a single cell -- or shut a shower off if needed.

There are a few traditional visitor rooms with glass partitions. But the plan is to have inmates schedule video chats with family members who can either come to the visiting room and log in or visit from a laptop at home. The inmates would chat from their pod's day rooms. Video chats would be monitored, but there is still a private room for meetings with attorneys.

"One of the positives is minimum inmate movement," said Capt. Michael Wright, director. "It keeps everyone safer."

To that end, there's also a built-in infirmary, dental office and virtual courtroom.

The metal exterior forms a skin over a steel-girder-and-cement-block interior. It's a $27.6 million project, years in the making, but only about 1½ years in actual construction. Elevated to avoid storm surge, it's sitting on 818 cement pilings anchored 60 feet into the ground. There will be no evacuation for hurricanes.

It's a shelter in itself, said project manager Jeff May with Michael Baker.

The price tag includes furnishings and, so far, it's coming in under budget.

The annual operating cost will be more than $8 million, not including the electric bill. Some of the costs to operate it will be a wait-and-see proposition. But initially, 12 additional deputies will be hired.

County Administrator Brian Fulton said the building's increased efficiency will make up for some additional cost and because of the design, increases in inmate population won't require more staff.

The kitchen, equipped to feed 750, is five to 10 times larger than the current one, which was designed in the 1970s to feed 70 inmates.


Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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