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New jail mixes aesthetics, security
by Liz Marino
lmarino@neighbornewspapers.com
November 07, 2012 04:17 PM | 2558 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Inside the control center of the new county jail, Chief Deputy Stan Copeland shows the monitors that display 300 cameras keeping an eye on activity in the facility.
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At first glance, a passerby might not realize that the impressive, new building sitting off Ga. Hwy. 92 is actually the county jail.

And that is exactly what the Douglas County Commission and city of Douglasville envisioned when plans were laid — and SPLOST money approved — to construct a new adult detention facility to hopefully serve the next three decades, according to Chief Deputy Stan Copeland of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

“The old jail was set up for 480 inmates,” Copeland said. “Right now we have over 700. We’re hoping that the new 1,500-bed facility will serve us for 30 years or more. However, at some point you max out.”

The present jail on Church Street in downtown Douglasville was built in 1983.

“The jail is simply worn out,” he explained.

The new, $115 million facility, sitting on 34 acres which it shares with the county E-911 Center, is actually made up of four separate buildings with distinct functionality, explained Copeland.

A Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified complex, the facility consists of an attached administrative building, the jail and a support building. A fourth building houses the visitation and bonding center operations.

“This separates the jail business from the law enforcement business,” Copeland said.

The law enforcement center is designed for public business with the sheriff’s department and houses the department’s administration and communications center.

The jail’s main control center controls all jail doors and entry doors, Copeland said. Three hundred cameras are taping jail activity constantly.

There are four floors of main housing units, with 32 dorms, or cell blocks, capable of housing 1,500 inmates.

It is within those cell blocks where inmates eat, sleep, have recreation and hold visitation, Copeland noted.

The adult detention center can be home to inmates anywhere from 24 hours to two to three years for someone awaiting with a serious charge, Copeland said.

“It is just the fact that you restrict their movement that makes it hard,” said Copeland. “That’s their life.”

Each floor has two separate control rooms that can also be used as an observation center.

“Each unit has a handicapped cell,” said the chief deputy. “Everything is molded in all steel, except for the floor. There is no deterioration like you get with concrete.”

Upon entering the facility, the large amount of available natural light is apparent. The natural light not only extends into the law enforcement center entry, but throughout the jail area as well.

“The design was to keep it as light as possible,” Copeland said. “So much natural light being used helped in our LEED certification.”

The abundant light is also designed for the psychological health and behavior of the inmates, Copeland explained.

“Inmates are not as well behaved in a dark and gloomy environment,” he said.

The jail was specifically designed to utilize the least amount of staff, said Copeland, who noted that the largest cost of the county is personnel.

The average jail staff on day shift totals 24.

An open house is set for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for visitors to tour the new facility.

As of last week, there were still a number of punch list items going on, Copeland explained. “We are still looking at items related to storage, shelving needs — what’s needed in the medical department and the kitchen. We have a list of items for [general contractor] Turner New South to complete. When you begin training, you discover little things.”

He said they were also in the cleaning stage — polishing floors, dusting, vacuuming — which is carried out by inmate labor.
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