On Monday, August 28th, the Quorum Court Detention Center Committee met Cleburne County Jail Administrator, Lt. Angelo Aldrighetti, and Chief Deputy, Keith Hays, to tour the county detention center. County Judge Jerry Holmes was in attendance as were JP’s Chad Evans, District 6; Brent Foust, District 8; and, Paul Roberts, District 10. They were joined by James S. Langford and Mike Kelley of SouthBuild TEAM, a construction company specializing in detention center renovation and new construction.
The Sun Times has featured recent articles regarding the condition of the county detention center. The center’s roof is in very poor condition and there have been quotes between $50-80,000 to either repair or replace the roof. The county hosted SouthBuild at a Quorum Court meeting last Spring in which a presentation was given outlining the unique capabilities of the company and their focus on rural detention centers.
Over the years, areas of the detention center have been repurposed for more efficient operations and to accommodate the need for different intake areas and segregation of inmates. The old booking area is now the control room in which two jailers are responsible for monitoring activities recorded and fed by sixteen different cameras on the facility. The center has about 40 cameras, but some are not working and one of the DVRs to record the feeds is not working.
Camera feed recordings are vital if the county should ever be taken to court by an inmate for an abuse allegation. Not only is some of the equipment for the control room not functioning, but the computer system operating the locking and unlocking of jail doors from the control room is “archaic” when compared to today’s technology according to Lt. Aldrighetti. The Sheriff’s department has put out requests for bid to two companies.
“Donald Rumsfeld once said, ‘You go to war with what you have, not what you want’,” said Aldrighetti.
James Langford with SouthBuild TEAM asked Aldrighetti why individual cell doors to the day rooms weren’t closed, which is standard operations.
“Because we have children in adult costumes who damaged the doors to where they separated from the wall just enough where they can’t be closed,” replied Aldrighetti.
Air conditioning is another concern. Return air quality is regulated by the federal government and currently the county detention center has six air conditioning units that are not compartmentalized.
Another major concern is flooding in the facility when there are days of heavy rain fall like the area had this past Spring.
“Last April, when we had three days of heavy rain, water was ankle deep in the kitchen,” related Aldrighetti. The detention center is lower in elevation than an embankment to the west of the facility and there’s only one large street drain that was built to drain the water coming off the embankment. The drain in the outdoors work area at the back of the facility doesn’t drain well and often water is high. Many times, the back rooms and the area outside the kitchen have to be sand bagged to prevent flooding of the facility.
The detention center runs 12-hour shifts with 2-3 employees working a shift depending on the shift. The night shift usually works two employees on that shift. Power shifts, times during the day or during a season where traffic at the jail increases requiring more employees, are not run at the center.
“What do you do when you have a medical emergency at night that requires both employees to assist?” asked Langford. “Who monitors the control room?”
“I could use four more jailers,” replied Aldrighetti. “Both night employees would have to attend to the medical emergency until it is resolved and the control room goes unattended.”
“We’re touring the facility,” Langford pointed out. “To get a really good look at it, I probably need to get the drawings and take them back to the office. It’s easy to say, replace it all, but that’s a lot of money. It’s hard to effectively add on or increment it. My question to everybody is, ‘What do you want us to do?’ I can write up a report of what we think you’ve got, but I need to know what would you like for us to do for you?
“Well, we’re finding a starting place,” Judge Holmes replied. “We’re to the point of trying to make some decisions. What we have here with the addition, is the addition salvageable to do something different with what we’ve got? Or are we looking for a new facility?”
“It’s just money,” laughed Langford. “Do you have drawings or land that you have to build a new facility? If you can’t get land close to this facility, you’d have to buy land outside.”
“We have five lots up there on the overlook except for one lot,” replied Holmes. “It’s 50X150 foot. We’re inquiring about the one lot we don’t have. We have drawings of the property we can show you.”
“That’s a pretty good size,” stated Langford after reviewing aerial photos of the property given to him by Chad Evans. “The costs are going to be pretty substantial if you want to renovate it as it is,” explained Langford. “If you put $5 million dollars into this facility, what have you got when you’ve done that? Where do you go next?”
“I have an issue with spending a lot of money,” said Brent Foust. “I mean, I don’t think we’re even at capacity.”
“Part of the decision is the kind of attitude you bring to the conversation,” replied Langford. “One attitude can be, ‘Look, we don’t need to be spending money we don’t need to spend. We’re taxed enough as it is.’ You start out with that kind of view and it’s a reasonable view.”
“Another view may be we do with what we’ve got if it’s reasonable to do something. That’s a choice.”
“Another one is, the county’s not growing a lot right now, but over time, as we grow, what then? So, is it better to bite the bullet and spend x dollars for renovation? Then that’s an attitude, too. OK, look if we’ve got a 90-inmate jail that’s only got 75 in it, then let’s just kind of spruce it up and do what we can do. We won’t have to speak to doing anything major for maybe another 5-10 years.”
“Another attitude is, ‘We’re not going to spend $1 million on something, let’s go out here and start something new that’s good for the next 20-30 years. It’s your choice.”
“We’re meeting minimum standards,” pointed out Foust. “If we’re meeting minimum standards, I don’t think we need to spend more money building a new facility or totally renovating this one.”