A four-year project has become reality, as the new Laurel County Correctional Center will officially open next week.

The new facility in the Fariston community will offer more space, more programs and more opportunities for inmates who will be moved to the new building early next week.

Laurel County Jailer Jamie Mosley said the new 664-bed facility is badly needed to eliminate the overcrowding at the jail now located off Broad Street in downtown London.

"We have about 500 inmates and that jail is built for 250," Mosley said of the jail on Broad Street.

The new jail features the latest in safety and technology, from the public entrance to the cells themselves.

Visitors to the new Laurel County Correctional Center will have face-to-face interaction with staff, with the lobby featuring 19 video cubicles in which inmates can have video visits without ever leaving their cell. That feature allows more safety for jail employees who will no longer have to escort inmates to a visiting room.

The lobby also features a kiosk where money can be placed on inmates' accounts.

The control room offers the highest level of monitoring, highlighting the 338 cameras that can monitor every block, every entry and exit, and every angle of the jail facility included in the highly secure fenced-in area with the traditional rolled barbed wire atop the fence.

The unloading area for inmates also features the latest in technology with two separate entrances for work release prisoners and another for new inmates. The work release personnel enter through one door, go through a body scanner to ensure they have no contraband on their persons, out an exit door into a hallway with lockers where they can store their work boots and equipment.

New prisoners will enter through another door, go through the scanning room, out a door into a hallway and into a booking area. Those suspected of being under the influence of alcohol have a breathalyzer room where they will be checked.

The new facility also allows more privacy with seven rooms where attorneys can meet with their clients and speak freely, seven booking cubicles and a "soft booking" area.

"This is an area where someone who gets picked up for an old speeding ticket and just has to pay a fine to get out will be held, rather than putting them in a cell with other inmates who would have more serious offenses," explained Billy Madden, jail administrator.

The new Laurel County Correctional Center also has a detox unit with nine cells.

"These are private rooms with just one person in each one," Madden explained. "Most of the time those who come in with drug problems get sick and we don't want a lot of people in the same room due to the germs."

The large capacity of prisoners also requires a large laundry area where industrial sized washers and dryers are available, with a separate area for folding and storing is available.

But one feature for which jail staff are especially proud is the huge, ultra modern kitchen area. This area features a food preparation area on one side, while the sanitation of trays and waste are on the other side.

"The dirty trays coming in are put in this sanitizer on the other side of the kitchen and never come in contact with the food being prepared," Mosley explained.

The design of the new facility also offers cell blocks, which will allow separation of federal and state inmates into their own sections. Mosley said the new center will house between 200 to 250 federal prisoners, which will generate revenues to offset the construction and operational costs of the new facility.

"With 200 to 250 federal inmates, that will generate around $8 million a year," Mosley explained. "That has been my goal from the beginning - to make this jail self-sufficient and at no costs to the taxpayers."

With more space and better security, inmates will also have more freedom to explore their possibilities for recovery. The new center features a separate space for their SAP (Substance Abuse Program), which has a large room with separate areas for beds with a partial petition but a living space in the front. Mosley explained that the open area will allow those in the program to be available to provide support to others in the program.

Counseling, support and job training will also be enhanced with more space in the new jail.

"We have several classrooms with programs like parenting, anger management, substance abuse, GED classes and job training," Mosley said. "We had the inmates do the polished concrete floors here and we want to add a welding class so people can learn skills and go back out and find a good job."

Recreation is also a feature of the new facility. While there is currently no area for outdoor recreation, the new facility offers a space with each block where inmates can interact, exercise or play table games. That offering will release tension and frustration and decrease negative interactions between cellmates.

While Mosley initially hoped to have a garden on the premises, the later than expected opening of the new jail will probably not allow that project this year.

"We've got to get things running and see how it works," he said. "We want to grow a garden to help reduce the costs of food and we could let different inmates help with that - not just the ones on work release. With the fenced in area, we could let other inmates out to help."

The delay in the opening was caused by above average rain last year, postponing the proposed September opening.

"We had 142 days of rain and that caused us problems with the construction," Mosley said. "But we're finished now and ready to move in."

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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