It's a place you never want to be-- in jail. But there is a stark contrast in conditions at the new facility in Grafton County, N.H., compared to the old.
"I guess it is more of a technology aspect; a going from an old facility, where you have to have a bunch of officers in the unit and physically lift up handles to the doors and let the inmates out and in. Our staff can now do it from a click of a button," said Lt. Chris Kendall of Grafton County Corrections.
The old jail was built in the late 1800s. Quarters were at times so jammed, inmates were forced to sleep in the library. With no AC, temperatures inside during the summer could easy top out at over 100 degrees.
After years of debating of the scope of the project and fighting a lawsuit which attempted to block it from happening, the new Grafton County Department of Corrections facility is finally filled with inmates.
Staffers at the new jail say the new digs are better for both employees and those incarcerated.
"It is a change in environmental attitude because the place is so clean and so quiet. The last one, the air condition; it was old, it was dirty, it was very hot in the summertime. So, I think this really improves the attitude of the inmates," said Bill O'Malley, a substance abuse counselor.
While there was almost universal agreement about the need for a new facility, some were concerned over the size. The facility houses 150 inmates at full capacity and some felt it was just too big.
"I think it was a fair compromise," County Commissioner Michael Cryans said.
An early plan called for 260 beds with a price tag around $60 million. After pressure from county residents, the project was scaled back to $33 million. A judge ruled in favor of the county, allowing construction to move forward.
"As many people that have talked about it being too large, many talk about well why did you scale it back enough so you had to take out some programs," Cryans said. "So there was some give and take which I think was appropriate in a process like that. It's the biggest process that the county has ever been in-- $30 plus million-- and most of us don't see ourselves going into jail."
One hundred and twelve inmates are currently serving time here in a jail that's state-of-the art.
"Modern technology is the biggest part. Not only does it improve the inmates' safety, but also the staff, too," Kendall said.
A bright spot in a world behind bars.
The project actually came in under budget at $30.5 million. County officials voted to use the difference to build a biomass plant on the site.
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