Work continues on new, updated jail

Construction workers work in what will be the general population holding area for the new Callaway County Jail, which is currently under construction. (Michael Shine/FULTON SUN)

Along with additional space, an expansion at the Callaway County Jail means an opportunity to upgrade.

The county built the current jail in 1989, and since then standard procedures have changed and the facility is struggling to meet those needs.

However, the main issue is the jail was built on fill dirt, which has compressed, leading to the jail settling.

Chief Deputy Major Darryl Maylee started on the force the same year the jail and current offices were built and said he’s seen the staff nearly double in that time.

For that reason, along with building a new jail, the county decided to expand the office space for the department.

The expansion includes additional offices but also space for the public.

For instance, Sheriff Clay Chism said, the county moved to video visitations for inmates during COVID-19. However, he struggled to find space for members of the public to come in for the video visitations if they needed to.

The expansion will include three booths equipped with the necessary technology.

Loved ones don’t have to pay anything to have remote visitations at the jail.

“We do have an option for them to do it remotely, but that comes with a cost,” Chism said. “I don’t want to jeopardize the inmates’ visits because of money.”

The project also includes two rooms for attorney-client meetings.

Chism said his favorite part about the project is the addition of a training room that will double as a public event space.

It will be right off the sheriff’s office lobby and free for residents to use for meetings or small events. The area includes a small kitchen and its own bathroom.

“The community voted to pay taxes to allow this addition,” he said. “We want to give back as much as we can to the good guys. The bad guys will end up in jail, but we know that in Fulton there’s a little amount of opportunities for your non-profits and civic organizations. Here’s a safe place to come.”

Once construction is complete, which Chism said will likely be early fall, the existing offices will be renovated.

The jail itself will have to parts to it: the booking/temporary holding area and the general population area.

Maylee said the booking/temporary holding area includes a couple padded cells, several negative-pressure cells for inmates with an airborne virus and standard cells.

Essentially, the cells will give officers areas to hold suspects before processing and booking them.

“If you have a big rush; Fulton may arrest two or three people, we may arrest one or two,” he said. “You’re just getting swamped all at once, you can throw them in there, then bring them out for processing.”

Chism said as part of the design phase he visited with other departments who have recently constructed new jails and asked about what they would change.

The number one response, he said, was to improve line of sight.

Both the booking and general population areas kept that in mind. For instance, the cells in the booking area are in a semi-circle around where inmates get processed.

Within general population, the staff will be at a desk in the center of a circular room where they’re able to look into the different blocks of cells.

Each block includes four to six cells with two beds in each. In total, the facility will be able to hold up to 152 inmates, while the current one holds around 74.

Chism said the jail typically has 80-105 inmates consistently over the last several years.

“We’re sure there’s other offenders the judges would have sent to the Callaway County Jail should we have had the space,” he said. “The new jail will literally double the general population capacity.”

While most companies on the project are local, he said, the cells themselves had to be built in New Mexico and driven up due to the specifications needed.

Chism said another thing he heard from other departments was to have access to cell utilities without needing to go into the cell itself.

Maintenance will be able to do most of its work in hallways behind the cells, which means not needing to move inmates more than needed.

Currently, the jail feeds inmates frozen meals, Maylee said, and that will continue to be the plan, but the new kitchen is also sized so it could be turned into a full kitchen at some point if needed.

Chism said the county got lucky, as most supplies for the project were purchased before inflation started driving up the cost of materials. While there has been some impact, it hasn’t been as much as it could be.

“(I have) a good architect and a good construction management company,” he said. “They saw it coming. They were able to get ahead of the game to get this project rolling because we’re not in near as bad of shape as some other projects around the nation.”