Berrien County Jail Renovation to Add 30 Years to Lifecycle

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — Initial plans to renovate the 66-year-old Berrien County jail in St. Joseph estimate that the project could cost as much as $7.2 million, which would still be less expensive than building a new jail.

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey; Joseph Mrak of Noblesville, Ind.-based Securitecture; and James Escarnilla, president and CEO of Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Byce Engineers and Architects, presented renovation plans to the Board of Commissioners on Sept. 15, reported The Herald-Palladium. The plans would give the jail a lifecycle of at least 30 more years.

The county hired the companies to provide initial design plans for renovations of the jail’s intake area as well as to present alternative security upgrades and improvements to other parts of the jail. After seeing the plans, commissioners gave approval to complete the final design phase and construction documents. As of now, the project will bid at the end of January, with work to begin as early as April, according to the presentation documents.

The plan would triple the size of the intake area, creating 75 beds for inmates — 51 for men and 24 for women. A combination of holding cells would be built to hold one or two inmates at a time as well as larger holding cells for up to 12 inmates. Two padded cells — one for males and one for females — would also be included in the intake area, providing a variety of cell configurations for deputies to isolate inmates who are sick, mentally ill or violent.

Another key part of the design plan is a medical exam room and triage area as well as an expanded area for video arraignments. A holding area for inmates waiting for court appearances would also replace the current waiting option, in which inmates simply stand in the hall as they wait their turn. Three interview rooms will also be included in the plan, according to the presentation documents.

Intake and releases areas would be combined to create better security and efficiencies, according to The Herald-Palladium. Electronic security equipment would also be replaced, while manual cell locks would be replaced with electronic models. A six-car vehicle sallyport would be two times the size of the current one and have doors high enough to allow vans to enter.

The presentation documents show that cost estimates for the intake-area upgrade will be about $5.3 million, while the additional upgrades such as security technologies and renovations to other spaces in the jail would cost about $1.9 million. If everything goes according to schedule, construction should be completed by May 2018.