Scott County sheriff- Jail broken down but secure

Saturday, February 16, 2002

BENTON, Mo. -- The construction of a new jail in Scott County has become a race against time as the old jail slowly crumbles, according to Sheriff Bill Ferrell.

He said the problems of the old building will be resolved fully only when the jail is torn down and the new facility is complete.

Ferrell submitted his annual report on jail conditions to the county commission and 33rd Judicial Circuit Judge David Dolan Thursday in compliance with statutory requirements.

He said he hopes it will be his last report on the 70-year-old jail, the oldest in Southeast Missouri.

"The Scott County Jail is old and is showing signs of wear, but all in all we still have a very secure facility," Ferrell said.

While county commissioners are reluctant to spend any money on repairs for a building scheduled to be demolished a year from now, it can't be neglected without safety concerns arising.

Increased drug arrests keep the 48-prisoner jail full on a daily basis with additional inmates transported to jails in other counties at a cost to the county of $25-$30 per day, per prisoner.

In November 2000, county voters passed a half-cent sales tax to fund construction of a new 120-bed jail.

Even though construction is on schedule, the new jail won't be complete until spring 2003. Architect's plans call for the old jail to be demolished to make a parking lot.

Until then, the jail becomes a more populous place each year.

More than 1,350 inmates were booked into the Scott County Jail in 2001, compared to 1,245 the year before. Another 1,140 were boarded in other facilities in 2001.

Last year was the first year the county saw more than 100 people incarcerated at one time.

When county officials began planning for a new jail three years ago, the inmate population was 55 to 60 daily.

On Thursday, sheriff's deputies told the county commission that leaks at the jail need to be fixed. Water from the ceiling surrounds electrical light fixtures and drips down into hallways and work areas.

Commissioners indicated they will have the jail roof checked when roofers look at a leak in the courthouse roof, which should be within the next two weeks.

Broken and cracked

In addition to the leaks, a tour of the jail Friday revealed that an outside doorbell for visitors was broken and that there was a large crack in the outside northwest corner wall, which butts up against where the new jail is being built.

Employees say the crack is getting longer and wider and sealants aren't closing the gap.

Water and sewage regularly back up through drains due to the old pipes and the high number of inmates. The security fence around the exercise yard is weak from rust, and when inmates are out, they require more guards than they would if the fence were repaired.

abuchanan@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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