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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines


LAWRENCE COUNTY - DECEMBER 20, 2022 -Both the Lawrence County Commissioners and Lawrence County Council will meet today in a work session to discuss the Lawrence County Jail.

The meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. today at the Lawrence County Courthouse, the meeting is open to the public, however no public comments are permitted.

A justice study completed in July 2021 at the request of the Lawrence County Commissioners.

The study of the existing jail and set to identify the immediate needs and future space needs and how those might be accommodated with a new facility.

During the jail population through has been increasing with a rated bed capacity of 180 beds, which 144 dedicated to males and 36 to females.

The jail population is considered full when the jail population reaches 144 inmates.

During today's commissioners meeting Sheriff Branham told the jail counts were the following:

  • Total Inmates - 81 which was 45 percent capacity.

  • Males - 65

  • Females - 16

  • Level 6 Felons - 9

  • Department of Corrections - 7

  • Parole - 3

The Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office, Lawrence County Public Defender's Office, Lawrence County Sheriff and Lawrence County Judges have been working over the last several months of getting the jail population under control.

According to the jail study there are several factors that indicated the jail population will increase. This was in part due to the increase in drug crimes, drug related crimes and domestic abuse cases. The offenses led to the increase in the jail population over the years.

The length of stay in the last eight years has increased to 47 percent. However, with the actions of the prosecutor, public defenders, sheriff, and judges the length of stay has been reduced over the last few months.

The female offenders have increased over the past ten years, with only 36 dedicated beds for females. In 2000, it was rare that even 12 females beds were needed.

The Lawrence County Jail was constructed in 1990 for 88 beds with the operational capacity of 70 beds. The jail was double bunked in 1992 to increase the bed count to 168.

Correctional facilities see deterioration after 20 years due to several factors which include inmates abuse the facility and being open 24 hours a day.

There are several plumbing fixtures, doors and locks, HVAC equipment some of the components become obsolete and are no longer manufactured. Therefore, parts are customed made parts and are very expensive to replace.

According to the report the challenges that have been presented will be the best accommodated with a new facility and cannot be remedied through additional renovations.

The proposed construction of a new jail facility will have a hard cost of $35,063,819. The construction and occupant related staff costs are not included in the construction costs that could range from 25 to 35 percent of the hard construction costs.

The soft costs are associated with financing, design services, furniture/equipment, staffing and operational costs. These costs can add $7.3 Million to a estimated cost of $42,427,220.

Proposals for the repurpose of the current jail once a new facility is built would be other detention type projects like work release. Although repurposing the jail for community corrections can provide future expansion capabilities there will be operational challenges and maintenance issues that will need to be addressed.

The location of the jail facility would be prime real estate for demolition the facility and making the area ready for new development.

Property along Beech Street was one of four to five locations considered for a new jail facility and justice campus

The construction of a new jail facility has been proposed at four to five locations with a recommendation to purchase property located on Beech Street in Bedford.

Lawrence County Zephyr will be providing updates to this story.

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