The current Washington County Jail structurally is sound and appears well maintained, but while it more than served its purpose for which it was built in the late 1960's, it's now considered a safety and security risk.
"The elevator is something of a security risk because we're in such a tight space with an inmate," explained Jail Administrator Deputy Jack Brum in a tour of the old jail Wednesday morning. "The new jail doesn't have an elevator; it's a one-story jail. The last escape (in the old jail) occurred from this elevator in 1984."
Even the delivery of prisoners to the jail, which now is located in the county courthouse, is considered insecure. The new complex, located on the west side of Marietta, will have a more secure drive-in area.
At any given time as many as nine prisoners can be housed in the old jail's cellblock. With the weather the way it is now, that can be uncomfortable and this area is about the size of an average bedroom.
"I've looked at some records from the time, and back in 1968, we were housing anywhere from 16 to 20 inmates on a given day," Brum says.
Now, it generally has more than 60 inmates, and while the current jail was built to house 72 prisoners, Ohio standards, which weren't in effect 30 years ago, allow for 36 in a facility of its size.
The new jail will accommodate 120, with education rooms, an expanded kitchen area and even a booking area for new prisoners. These were things that weren't even considered for the current Washington County Jail when it opened more than 35 years ago, and not only can the soon-to-be-opened jail house more prisoners, they have a better chance of being monitored by administrators.
"This is the size space for one inmate under the new standards," Brum says. "It's twice as big as the old jail, and where we now have two inmates to a cell, we only have one here. In the new jail the walls have windows so we can see the inmates at all times. In the old jail, we couldn't see them at all."
While administrators can't say there aren't problems with the new complex, Brum hopes to have them worked out within the next few weeks.
"As we train here over the next two to three weeks, we may pick up some things that require minor adjustments, that we didn't realize when we first designed the building."
Some might think that, with the additional space and amenities, the new jail benefits the prisoners more than anyone else.
"I don't think it's a hotel at all," Brum responds. "It was designed to meet the minimum standards of Ohio, and that's it."
The new jail won't be housing inmates until some time in June, but the general public will have a chance to see it at a special open house this weekend. It will be held Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon at the new jail site at Gilman Avenue and Westview Drive in Marietta.
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