Groups tour new jail before lockdown: Henry County Sheriff's Department host tours before inmates are transferred to the new jail on April 1

Friday and Saturday provided a once-in-a-lifetime chance of seeing deep inside a high security jail — that is, if you keep out of trouble and don’t get sent there by a judge.

However, the visitors on tour of the new Henry County Adult Detention Center got to see far more of the new $68,000 million facility than the inmates who will be pulling their time there ever would get to see.

“We are glad to be able to open a new facility,” said Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry Friday during the tours.

Starting today the facility is on lockdown to get the jail ready for inmates to arrive on April 1.

As visitors entered the lobby they were greeted by a few deputies, and each time a small group formed, a deputy would take them throughout the massive grey cinderblock labyrinth.

The tour started with a look around the visitation room, with rows of video-phone stations. Each station was sectioned off on three sides by metal partitions or the wall, with a round metal stool in front of the video screen.

Each cell block also has video-phone stations where inmates would speak with and see their visitors electronically — in the same building, but not in person.

The virtual visits are limited to 15 minutes for each call, but visits are allowed seven days a week from a tentative 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., said Lt. Sean Reynolds. He added that they hours may change as further decisions are made.

Each inmate would be issued a tablet, Reynolds said. The tablet would not have internet connection, but it would have programs such as classes, and some inmates would be able to text and call their friends and family over them. As inmates earn points for good behavior, they would be able to use those points for privileges such as choosing movies to see on the tablet.

The next stop was the employees-only area. As deputies enter the jail from the parking lot, they would secure their guns in assigned lock-boxes, then change clothes in the locker rooms. That section also has conference rooms and offices.

Down the hall is a muster room for staff briefing and a defensive tactics room where training will take place for jail staff. The room is empty and cold, and Tiziana D’Urso of Figsboro described the soft floor as feeling like a “Planet fitness floor.”

After this, the tour entered the secure part of the jail where, when the lockdown is started, no cell phones, guns or ammunition will be allowed, said Reynolds. This secure part of the jail has a length of ¼ of a mile and if someone were to walk inside each room and inmate pod they would walk a complete mile.

People who have been arrested will be driven into the jail through a long, spacious and secure sally port garage. Doors lead from the garage into different areas of the jail, including the medical area and the intake room.

New inmates are brought to be booked and held for observation in the intake room before officially being settled into the jail. Reynolds said that they will sometimes be held for two or three days and people under the influence will be put in holding cells until they are sober.

Most cells had a long cement bench and a toilet and sink area that was not hidden from view. “I mean people—when they go to the bathroom—anyone else can see them?” D’Urso asked.

The jail also contains two completely empty holding cells for inmates that may be suicidal; the cells are empty for the safety of the inmate, Reynolds said.

Groups tour new jail before lockdown: Henry County Sheriff's Department host tours before inmates are transferred to the new jail on April 1

Inmates will be searched by strip searches and by Intercept machines that run a full body scan. “You can see air bubbles” inside the inmates bodies, that’s how effective the scanners are, Reynolds said.

Also in the intake area was a video magistrate room and sobriety testing room. To leave the area — and between most areas of the jail — people would go through a sally port, which is a small locked foyer between one area and the next.

The jail has a medical department with an area for dental work, a center for counselors, classrooms and a chapel. Piedmont Community Services will have staff there, and Patrick & Henry Community College will bring mobile classrooms for teaching trades, Reynolds said. There are attorney meeting rooms.

Good News Jail and Prison Ministry Chaplain Joe Collins said that for the past 42 years the ministry has had “worship services, Bible studies, things like that in the cell blocks, but now that we’ve got some classrooms and the chapel area up there we’ll be able to pull inmates out who want to participate and ... we’re going to expand that into other areas.”

The jail is separated into male and female areas, but also separated into color-coordinated security zones of green for minimum, blue for medium and black for maximum. The inmates are sorted based on the severity of their crimes and also their behavior while in jail, Reynolds said.

Inmates in the medium and high security areas will have individual cells that will be locked during the night and for some hours of the day. Each pod has an open area with tables which each have four permanently placed metal stools and an outdoor recreation area with a cement floor and four cinderblock walls, with the top open to the sky — but only through a secure metal grid.

Minimum security, which Reynolds said is “something to work towards” for the inmates, offers the most freedom to prisoners. Instead of being locked into individual cells at night and several hours a day, inmates would all sleep, eat and live in one large open room. Each long rectangular table seats six. A work area for jail staff to supervise is at the front of each room, and the bathroom is in a front corner.

Each pod bathroom is open to view from the front. The showers have clear plastic linings with solid blue center panels for privacy of the body’s midsection, but whatever happens on the toilet is not so obscured: Each toilet is open to full view except for waist-high cinderblock walls between toilets, and a waist-high partition screening part of the bathroom from the view of the bed area, but still within sight of the jail staff section.

Work release inmates, whose area is indicated by the color

yellow, have the highest level of freedom, Reynolds said. They are allowed to have jobs outside the jail and if they have a license, can drive themselves to work.

“I think it’s cool,” said Jackson Supthin, boy on the tour brought by his aunt, Kendra Smith, a dispatcher. Smith said that she sees the jail as “money well spent” because all the services will be in one location and dispatch will no longer have to call multiple different agencies.

Linda Gusler, a former DuPont employee, came to see the jail that now stands where the old DuPont factory was. She said that the tour was “long, but I’ve never seen so much purity. It’s really nice.”

This is the 13th Henry County jail built, Reynolds said; the first was built in 1767.

About 90 new sworn officers to help staff the jail will swell the ranks of the sheriff’s office to 215 to 225 employees, Perry said.

“Dangerous behavior has to be stopped,” Perry said. “They can’t be just allowed to roam in the community and that be through substance abuse, crime or the violence that takes place, and sometimes it can be through mental illness.

“But what we now have is a new facility. We can handle people, that no matter what has caused them to be inside, better. It will be safer for the employees. We can do more with the inmates when they are clear of substance abuse. We can turn more lives around, and also we can take care of medical needs and mental needs inside this facility.”


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