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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Five years and counting!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Clay County Justice Center became officially March 1, 2006. On Tuesday, the center will have been open for five years. [Order this photo]
* Clay County Justice Center celebrates five years

On March 1, 2006, the Clay County Justice Center (CCJC) became fully operational when 47 inmates were transferred from the old Clay County Jail. It was a humble beginning for the state-of-the-art facility.

"We have been continually open 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year for five years now," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "We're definitely a working facility."

According to officials during the planning phase of the current facility, the old county jail was the second oldest in the state (at that time) and was built to only house 45 inmates.

However, the CCJC was built to house 168 inmates, with the additional capacity potentially generating additional income from housing State Department of Corrections inmates at the facility.

Since opening, according to officials, more than 6,500 adult inmates (with 75-80 percent of those inmates being male) have spent the night in the facility. More than 260 inmates have served weekend sentences at the facility, while approximately 25 juveniles have been temporarily detained at the facility.

According to Heaton, that much traffic through the facility means routine maintenance is crucial.

Jail Commander Kenny Rollings agreed.

"Housekeeping and maintenance are daily functions for all employees and staff members employed at the facility. Each shift is responsible for some type of cleaning or painting," Rollings said. "Staph infections, which occur at all facilities of this type, are almost zero here. It still happens from time to time, but the instances are drastically reduced because of the staff's diligence and the cleaning regimen. This is a much more secure environment not only for the inmates, but also for the staff members who take care of them."

The design of the CCJC is not just for lock up. It also allows officials to provide medical care at the facility, which wasn't an option at the old jail. Services include physician/nurse sick calls/assessments, lab draws, chronic clinic, routine distribution and monitoring of medication, dental exams and the potential to transport sick inmates to the hospital.

Inmates are also allowed to participate in programs that help lower recidivism, inmates being released and returning to criminal activity that brings them back to jail.

"Helping an inmate see the error of their ways and learning a new way to live life makes this job worth while," Rollings said about the inmate re-entry programs.

Programs at the old jail facility were limited due to the inability to provide a secure environment, but did include work release, GED, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and a few faith-based programs and worship services.

Rollings said he is always on the look out for new programs to add to the roster available at the CCJC, which currently includes Celebrate Recovery, Hamilton Center stress management courses, Inside Outside Dads, Lifeline Family Services, Living On The Outside and several new faith-based programs made available by six local churches and a few other organizations.

With most of the top 10 charges filed against inmates housed at the facility being drug/alcohol related, Rollings said those types of programs are the most beneficial for inmates.

"Even if an inmate participates in a program that doesn't stop them from becoming a repeat offender -- if they backslide -- it usually takes a longer period of time before they return to incarceration," Rollings said. "It's not a reality to tell a person to not do drugs or alcohol ever again, the potential to backslide is always there. That possibility is built into the programs. We want to provide inmates with the tools to help them build and rebuild their lives on the outside."

Changes have been made at the CCJC in the past five years to keep in step with technology.

Heaton said the E911 dispatch center was modified with surveillance equipment that allowed better monitoring at the Clay County Courthouse, equipment that allows for enhanced firearms training (Laser Shot) was installed that also saves money on ammunition, and energy-efficient lighting was installed to save money.

"Looking back, there were a few design areas where we could have done things a little different, but we are making do with what works," Heaton said. "Some changes in the law regarding how Miranda Rights and interviews are done will require we upgrade the recording system, but nothing major."

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