DECATUR, Ala. — A recently opened addition at the Morgan County Jail in Decatur will provide space for inmates currently housed at the rundown Decatur City Jail. The county jail officially opened an $11 million, 450-bed addition on Feb. 16, and inmates will start to be processed as early as March 1 as part of a 2013 agreement between the city and county.
The agreement between the city and the county required the city to help pay for the jail addition in exchange for reserving up to 120 beds in the facility for city inmates, reported DecaturDaily.com. The city paid $1 million when construction began about 20 months ago, and another $1 million payment was due with the issuance of the certificate of occupancy. The city will also owe the county $100,000 a month to cover operating costs in the new jail wing.
Once the inmate transfer is completed, the city of Decatur will shut down its jail, which has had a series of 15 different lawsuits filed against it by inmates who claimed poor conditions at the jail violate their constitutional rights. In order to remain compliant with court rulings, the addition also created 23 more correctional officer positions at the jail for a total number of 129, according to DecaturDaily.com.
The city’s seven female inmates were already moved to the county jail three months ago, while its 19 male inmates are still awaiting a transfer. Before inmates can be transferred, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department needs to move equipment and furniture into the dormitory-style addition. The Morgan County Commission approved buying various items for the addition such as 23 hand-held radios, two 65-inch televisions, mattresses and uniforms for 150 inmates as well as classroom tables and chairs, food carts, and equipment for 23 employees. Some of the equipment may not be completely installed until mid-April, but that shouldn’t affect the timeline for inmate transfers, reported DecaturDaily.com.
With the new three-story addition, the Morgan County Jail can now house 950 inmates. The first floor of the new addition will open first, and the second and third floors will open as needed. The addition will house minimum-security inmates, including trustees, work-release inmates and misdemeanants. Decatur is the last of all the other towns and municipalities in the county to house inmates in the county jail.
Locally based GBW Architects served as the architect on the project, while Huntsville, Ala.-based Lee Builders Inc. served as the construction manager. The county opted to spend a bit more on design so that it had a more appealing look, and out-of-town visitors have even mistaken the addition for a conference center, John Godwin, project architect from GBW Architect told DecaturDaily.com. The design also incorporated new classrooms, with smaller rooms that can be used for counseling, drug counseling and parenting classes as well as larger classrooms for both inmate activities and correctional officer training, reported WAAY-TV.
While the addition helps the city of Decatur, it also addresses the county’s growing inmate population, which has more than doubled in the past seven years, according to WAAY-TV.