New Steuben Jail Wing Nearly Ready for Visitors: Modular Units Saved Time in Adding 96 Beds; Project Under Budget By Bob Clark, The Evening Tribune
September 17, 2007 BATH, NY — The new jail is almost ready for its first inmates.
Sections 6 and 7, the new 48-cell cell blocks at the Steuben County Jail, have already received occupancy permits and will likely be operating in the next month. “It's probably about 98 or 99 percent complete,” said Steuben County Administrator Mark Alger, adding only, “a punch-list of items to finish up,” remain to be completed.
Overall, things look promising for the jail, especially since the project was completed under-budget. “We have about a quarter of a million dollars in the contingency budget right now,” said Alger. “So we did pretty good.”
Very few problems arose during the actual construction to delay the work or add to the cost of the new sections. “It actually went pretty smoothly,” said Alger. “There was a pocket of sand in the foundation that the contractor had to take care of.”
The new wing makes use of prefabricated cells manufactured by Tindall Corporation of Atlanta. The 30-ton units each consisted of two completely modeled cells. The project utilized 48 such units. “(The prefabricated cells) saved some money, but the real savings was in time,” said jail superintendent Maj. Christopher Lian. “We saved a lot of time with those.” “It saved six to nine months of construction,” Alger said.
Once the units were in place, the construction of the outside of the building could begin.
The additional 96 beds will greatly add to the capacity of the jail. After the new cell blocks open, the jail will be able to house almost 300 prisoners if necessary. Total cost of the project is around $17 million.
The jail, first opened in 1995, had a permanent 156-bed capacity before the new project began last year. “We have about 150 (inmates) in here today, but we could take up to 174 (in the old section) if we have to,” Sheriff Dick Tweddell said.
The additional cells will also come in handy for housing federal prisoners or inmates from other counties, which can bring in $3,000 an inmate per month to the county. “We're hoping to cover staffing costs (for the new sections) by housing prisoners from outside,” said Alger.
Both new sections house 48 new cells, several telephone booths for inmates, a television and chairs, a medical examination room, a program room for classes and religious services, an attorney conference room, six showers, a fenced-in, three-cell section for inmates on suicide watch, several tables for inmates to eat at and interact with each other, and an enclosed recreation yard. With up to 120 new prisoners, the new sections were designed for efficient redundancy.
“Everything is focused on safety,” said Tweddell. The new sections, like the other cell blocks in the jail, are controlled locally by a computer touch-screen at a workstation, which can be deactivated by the control room in case of an emergency.
If something goes wrong in the cell blocks, the entire facility can be operated by one guard in the control room, according to Lian.
“One guy can run it all (in the control room),” Lian said, adding in case of a major emergency in the control room, the entire computer system can be locked down and the facility can be operated remotely, but that is not expected to ever happen. “No prisoners ever come in (the control room),” Lian said. “They don't even come close to here.”
Every section of the building is separated by several doors, which require electronic keys to open. A number of intercoms and red distress buttons are also scattered throughout the facility for communication with the control center.
Over 160 motorized video cameras monitor the jail around the clock, and all the footage is backed up on digital video recorders. High-resolution still photos can also be taken with the cameras. “If they're playing cards, you can see what's in their hand,” Lian said.
Guards are required to make eight formal headcounts every day, and make rounds every 15 minutes.
Some revisions and upgrades to the rest of the facility were included in the project. The kitchen was enlarged to help feed the larger population. “We serve between 500 to 550 meals a day,” said Tweddell, adding that eight or nine inmates assist cooks from a contractor. The new kitchen began serving meals today.
The laundry room was also expanded, and is operated by inmates. “We did some of our own laundry, but now we do it all,” Tweddell said, adding that the on-site work will save the county money that would have gone to a contractor.
The security system was also upgraded. Older monitors in the control room and other cell blocks were replaced with flat touch-screens, along with some other computer hardware upgrades.
The small loading dock entrance was also enlarged. “Before, we couldn't even get an ambulance in there,” said Lian.