Jail addition readies for prisoners
By Traci Chapman
A project more than five years in the making marked the completion of one chapter Monday.
Canadian County officials marked the official opening of a $4.8 million, 122-bed jail addition with a ribbon-cutting, held at its new entrance. Commissioners David Anderson, Jack Stewart and Phil Carson joined Sheriff Randall Edwards, Undersheriff Chris West, Jail Administrator Bob Stuart and representatives of SouthBuild Team to celebrate the completion of what officials expect to be a multi-phase project to expand the jail to meet the county’s needs.
With the completion of the 10,000-square-foot addition, the county can begin moving prisoners from jails in other counties, where they have been temporarily housed since the Oklahoma jail inspector warned the county to keep the jail at its 72-inmate certified limit. With the addition now open, the jail’s capacity will be 194 prisoners, officials said.
Although the county has contracts to house prisoners in Grant, Dewey and Pottawatomie counties, Dewey’s jail is being renovated. That’s forced Canadian County to concentrate prisoners in Grant and Pottawatomie counties, Edwards said. Canadian County has paid $20 per day per prisoner to house those inmates, a cost – in addition to labor and transportation expenses – Edwards said he would be happy to see as a thing of the past.
“There’s been a lot going on all year long to make this project happen, but we needed a few days for my staff to familiarize themselves with the facility, and perform security sweeps before we begin to move inmates in,” Edwards said. “We have 70 to 80 inmates to move from Dewey, Pottawatomie and Grant counties, and hope to have them all back as soon as possible.”
Although the addition’s construction began in September 2012, the project received commissioners’ go-ahead after two failed elections proposing larger, more expensive jails. After voters rejected the most recent bid, which would have funded a jail through a diversion of funds from sales tax allocated to the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center, Edwards joined commissioners in going back to the drawing board.
The result was a less expensive, smaller addition to the county’s existing jail, built in 1982. The addition includes a state-of-the-art kitchen, laundry and a new and expanded booking and receiving area. In the old jail, a formal kitchen was never designed, and meals were cooked in what had been a cell. The jail’s booking area was so small, it constantly caused staff headaches, especially on weekends when the jail was busier, Edwards said.
“This will make a huge difference,” he said.
The addition is comprised of two 61-bed dormitories, rather than cells, and will be perfect for the majority of prisoners housed in the jail, Edwards said. A few cells are included, which will be used for prisoners who need to be separated from the general jail population or who have special issues. No women will be housed in the addition; they will remain in the more secure area of the existing jail, Edwards said.
The $4.8 million addition was designed by Spirit Architecture, a Memphis-based firm which comprises one-half of SouthBuild Team. Smith Doyle provides construction management of the project as SouthBuild’s other half.
After years of headaches and juggling prisoners to meet state requirements, the sheriff said he and his staff were looking forward to moving prisoners into the addition.
“The citizens of Canadian County have provided us with a state-of-the- art jail addition, and we’re anxious to put it to use,” he said.