Commission will consider jail barracks


Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 12:40 a.m.
Some future Alachua County jail inmates could feel more like they are in the Army than in a lockup if a barracks-style building that will be studied by county officials is ever constructed.
The barracks is an option county commissioners will consider as a way to alleviate overcrowding at the jail under action taken Tuesday.
County officials also will continue to look for alternatives to incarceration such as electronic monitoring and drug court to lower the jail population.
"I'm concerned that because of the construction lag of doing anything with bricks and mortar, we need to at least explore things more formally," County Manager Randy Reid said. "The fiscal year 2007 capital improvements program is not funded and we are not ready to do that, so we need to proceed on some concrete, literally, solution to the building problem."
The jail is periodically so crowded that inmates sometimes have to sleep on the floor. Commissioners have planned to build a new housing pod when the need arose, but the money has not been set aside for such a project.
County officials say a new pod for several hundred inmates could cost around $12 million. A barracks building would be considerably cheaper.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office uses barracks at its jail. A building was opened in February to house 200 inmates while the jail undergoes a major expansion. It cost about $1.3 million and will continue to be used when the expansion construction is done, said Maj. Paul Laxton, the jail director.
Laxton added that jail trustees also are housed in a barracks facility for 256 inmates. It cost about $1.2 million in 2001 and is about 25,368 square feet.
"It's a metal structure with block walls that go out about 8 feet, and then the metal framing goes a lot higher than that," Laxton said. "It's a fairly low-cost construction. The county maintenance department did a lot of the work to help save money. A company built the building, but county maintenance did the plumbing, air-conditioning work and stuff like that."
Only low-risk inmates are held in the barracks, while those deemed more dangerous are held in more secure facilities, Laxton said.
The Alachua County Jail has 920 beds. Inmates are housed in different areas based on factors including gender, age and the seriousness of the offense. Officials said the jail often has more inmates for which it was designed. So space is found in on floors, in halls and other locations.
Commissioner Mike Byerly said Tuesday he favors an examination of potential new facilities but also wants alternatives to be stressed.
"The effort should be tightly linked to the on-going non-facility options for reducing jail populations," Byerly said.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at (352) 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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