- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - The central axis bisecting the length of the new Garland County Detention Center and separating inmates from service areas is part and parcel of the design concept informing the layout of the 156,000-square-foot facility.

Its 180,000 mortar-and-rebar reinforced concrete blocks are arrayed to minimize inmate movement, segregating the agitators from the amenable and delivering recreation, health care and educational services directly to eight self-contained housing units that also allow for visitation — connecting inmates and visitors via video visitation monitors.

“We’re bringing the mountain to Muhammed,” Chief Deputy of Corrections Mark Chamberlain told The Sentinel-Record (https://bit.ly/1ydN6SA ) during a tour of the facility that’s set to open in November and house inmates early next year.

A secure vestibule leads into each unit, with a multipurpose space and medical triage room on either side. It gives on to a day area flanked by two floors of cells. A partition of ballistic glass separates it from an open-air recreation area girded by an arched wall topped by architectural mesh.

“The biggest benefit to this facility is you have a rec yard adjacent to every unit,” said Chamberlain, adding that it will allow for eight hours of daily recreation, opposed to the two hours a week at the current detention center. “You don’t have to escort or move them anywhere.”

The central spine corridor spanning the north-south axis divides inmate housing from booking, kitchen, laundry, medical and program services areas. Known as Main Street, the long hallway has six housing units branching off its east side. Toward the northern terminus, the alternative sentencing and inmate worker units extend off the west aspect.

The service areas can accommodate 800 inmates, giving the facility flexibility to more than double its opening-day capacity of 346.

“If they ever want to expand by adding onto the building, they don’t have to redo the kitchen and laundry and all that stuff,” said Chamberlain, explaining that housing units can be added to the north end.

New units will follow the dormitory model of F unit, with bunks to accommodate 64 inmates and no secure cells.

“This is the cheap way to go,” Chamberlain said. “If we ever add on, it will be like this. We have enough single-man or two-man cells to lock down the population that needs to be locked down.”

The sequestering of inmates is in keeping with a classification system that groups the population into minimum, medium and closed custody cohorts.

“We spend a lot of time classifying people and separating them from each other,” Chamberlain said. “Anytime you move them, you jeopardize that. The only time you’ll have to leave a unit is for programs, court, medical treatment in the medical services area or to go to the hospital.”

Closed custody is for those being held or convicted on violent charges and the noncompliant, Chamberlain said. They’ll be held in units with sub-day rooms, areas segregated from the general population by framed partitions.

“They’ll be locked down 23 hours a day and have one hour to go to the rec yard and be let out a couple times a week to shower,” Chamberlain said.

The protocol for the noncompliant inmates begins in booking. Cooperative arrestees will wait to be processed in an atrium-lit lobby, which Chamberlain likened to a bus stop or airport waiting room. More difficult newcomers can be secured in 10 holding cells, and the belligerent can be contained in double-entry cells arresting officers can access from the sally port.

“Those are the only ones that go to the exterior,” Chamberlain said. “If someone’s real combative or real drunk or whatever, they can just dump them right in. There’s two in-floor drains.”

Chases, or spaces between units, allow maintenance to be done without workers having to commingle with inmates. Most of the physical plant and 12 miles of conduit tying together the facility’s security electronics are on the second floor.

“That’s the wow stuff,” said Chamberlain, calling the upstairs the brain of the facility. “That connects all the touch-screen stuff that will allow us to do things like turning off a guy’s toilet.”

The southern entrance to Main Street houses the control room, the nerve center where video from the facility’s approximately 300 cameras will be monitored and its myriad electronic security features will be administered.

“If I had my way, that would be the first person we’d have in here for training, even while construction is going on,” Chamberlain said, adding that any training prior to a certificate of occupancy being issued is likely to occur in the administrative area on the south end of the jail.

Chamberlain said American Correctional Association standards guided the facility’s construction, design and policy formulation. Adherence to the accrediting body’s 495 standards was done with the hope of making the detention center the state’s first nationally accredited jail.

He said that deputies have done at least seven weeks of policy and procedure training that should be completed by the end of the month.

“Deputies have been very accepting of the polices,” he told the Garland County Quorum Court last week. “Every day they get more and more excited about what’s coming. I think even our inmates are getting excited.”

County Judge Rick Davis told the quorum court an open house is planned for December. He said inmates could transfer in by the first of the year.

“That’s the plan, unless we stumble,” he said.


Information from: The Sentinel-Record, https://www.hotsr.com

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