Detention Center expected to reopen by mid-February

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Through this door is the Mineral County Detention Center and Dispatch. Several community members were able to get a tour of the freshy painted and refurbished jail cells. The facility is tentatively scheduled to reopen by mid-February. (Kathleen Woodford/Mineral Independent)

Several people who attended the Mineral County Commissioner meeting on Friday, Jan. 26 had the opportunity to tour the newly remodeled jail cells in the Detention Center. County Commissioners, Roman Zylawy, Duane Simons, and Laurie Johnston, along with County Attorney, Ellen Donohue; videographer, Mary Furlong; and Administrative Assistant, Kasey Feasel were able to see the newly painted cells and refurbished floor as well as the dispatch center.

The remodeling was part of the county’s efforts to get the Detention Center back in operation after it was forced to close on Dec. 3, 2017 due to lack of staffing. Creating the position of a jail administrator was another recommendation which was fulfilled in late December when long-time dispatch employee, Roni Phillips was hired for the job.

Phillips conducted the tour and explained that they hoped to get it up and running by mid-February. Almost all of the positions needed have been filled with five hired for dispatch and six detention officers.

Photographs were not allowed to be taken as the group started in the changing room where workers were putting the finishing touches of white paint on the cinder block walls. Orange flip-flops and jumpsuits lined shelves along with green mattresses and blankets in a back room. Computers, a printer and equipment to take finger prints sit on a desk in the booking area.

Next to that is the library and kitchen area. Currently, the way prisoners will be fed is in limbo. Prior to the jail being shut down Durango’s Restaurant in Superior had a contract to provide meals to the prisoners. However, Phillips is investigating the possibility of purchasing pre-packages meals for them. The meals can then be heated up in the oven and served. The department already has utensils, plates, and other kitchen equipment including an oven and refrigerator. It is unknown how much equipment would need to be purchased in order to offer prepackaged meals.

Down the hall is a small conference area with a phone on one side of the glass and a sound-proof room on the other. This is where prisoners can visit with guests, their legal counsel or clergy, “it’s the one room that doesn’t have recording equipment,” said Phillips.

The facility can house up to 28 inmates including eight females. The cells were painted white with different colored trim from blue and purple, to red, yellow, orange and green. Most of the cells contain two bunks, along with a table or two in a common area complete with a TV and shower area.

The ceilings are covered yellow diamond metal in response to inmate escapes which took place several years ago. Two of the cells also contain a camera that is pointed toward corners that cannot be seen from the door window.

There are also two exercise pods, one indoor and the other considered outdoor because of the ceiling ventilation window. It gives inmates enough room to walk, jog or play a game of handball. Care is taken and so the male prisoners cannot see the female prisoners. When the female are in the exercise area a blanket covers the hallway entrance.

Lining the detention cells is the dispatch room. Darkened windows look out into the cell block, and in the room there are monitors where hall cameras show images of various rooms. Along with the dispatch radio, there is a bank of computers including a switchboard which operates all of the cell doors. On the other side of the room is a desk area for the detention officers, a microwave, sink, and coffee maker with file cabinets lining the wall.

Weapons are not allowed in the area, and detention officers a not allowed to wear actual badges in the area. Instead, their badges are embroidered onto their shirts. Outside the facility, they do have badges they can wear.

Overall, the facility is ready to be reopened said Phillips. One of the jail cells does still have a leak in the roof which they are hoping to get repaired soon. She feels things are going smoothly and is looking forward to her new duties.

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