No More Face to Face Visits at New Montgomery County Jail

We're used to seeing a lot of construction cranes in downtown Montgomery - signs of progress and new buildings in the works. One is a new jail in downtown Montgomery which will house 700 county jail inmates. The new correctional facility is scheduled to open in the fall. Even though the project will cost taxpayers about $55,000,000 County Commissioners say it will save us money in the long run.

For the first time, the folks who will write the check for the $55,000,000 are getting to see inside the new county lock-up. Architect Vicki Loyd led the tour. "Anybody who comes to the jail to be booked comes through here the sally port."

Inside, the jail is similar to the one the county has now, but the major difference between the old and the new  - the inmate's won't have anymore face to face visits like they have now. Instead, there will be computers, video screens and telephones to visit with their family and friends. Chief Deputy Sheriff Derrick Cunningham demonstrated how they will work.  "The inmate will walk in here. We'll have a monitor, the video monitor as well as the phone sitting right here for visitation."

And, he says the video visitation will help with security. "Anytime you move inmates from cell blocks to visitation you're moving 20 to 15 inmates at a time. That's when your problems happen."

One problem this new jail promises to solve is overcrowding. Right now the county is spending $1,000,000 a year to house inmates in other counties and the County Commission Chairman Todd Strange asked the Director of Detention Gina Savage about the number of inmates who are still out there. "Gina, how many today? Probably about 75 this morning."  Strange says the commissioners want to get those inmates back. "We've had as high as about 130 people in other counties. And, why is it they're not here? Because we don't have any room."

The county is also having trouble hiring staff for the new jail. The director of the jail says most applicants fail the background check because of drug use.

The county though says it's offering a enticing package for those who qualify for a job at the new jail. Even though the starting pay is about $30,000 a year, the county says it will reimburse and pay employees to go back to school to get a bachelor's or master's degree.