Crews are working seven days a week to complete the Marshall County Jail so that inmates can be moved into the new facility by the Jan. 1 deadline.

Heavy rains the last few months presented setbacks for the construction team, but they are now determined to finish the project on time, as promised.

“We’re building a modern facility to get years of service out of,” Marshall County Commissioner Josh Cantrell said. “It’s not the largest in Oklahoma, but it has all the modern amenities. We’re pretty proud, here in Marshall County, of this new jail.” 

In 2015, Marshall County citizens voted to enact a one-fourth cent sales tax to fund construction of the new jail.  Architects in Partnership of Norman designed the new facility, while Mid-Plains Construction, out of Mead, are constructing it. The new design strives to fix the problems the nearly 30-year-old jail currently has.

The design builds on the current jail’s structure. Marshall County Sheriff Danny Cryer said the logic behind doing this was to cut costs. 

The new design is set up as a pod system instead of the linear design the jail currently has.

Having a linear design means that the current jail has two long hallways that dead end, with cells lining each side of the hall. Jailers have to walk down the halls to see what inmates are doing, leaving inmates unsupervised for a period of time.

Modernizing the facility using the pod system will permit the jailers to see all of the inmates from one central control tower — allowing the jailers to have eyes on all of the inmates at all times.  The pods will feature one-way glass; that way the jailers can see in, but the inmates can’t see out.  Each pod will hold up to 10 inmates, who will sleep in bunk beds.

Marshall County’s current jail also has showers in each cell, which Cryer said is a problem because the cells were designed without an adequate way to remove moisture. As a result, the walls often mildew — a problem the health department said the sheriff’s office needs to fix. The current jail also has light fixtures and wall outlets that the inmates are able to tamper with and, as a result, vandalism and contraband are often problems.

Inmates will occasionally rip out the wiring from the light fixtures and use it to create a device used for heating water to make coffee or ramen.

Cryer said because of this, a hot cup of water can cost the jail $500 in electrical repairs.

“We’re hoping this pod-direct supervised design will increase supervisions,” Cryer said. “We’re hoping to decrease maintenance costs and increase jailer’s safety.” 

The current jail holds 63 inmates but the new facility will hold 110 — thanks to the mezzanine design in the pod area.

“It’s the best way for us to increase our capacity without increasing our square footage,” Cantrell said.

In addition to being a pod system and remedying some of the issues the jail currently has, the new jail will have a holding area for alcohol testing, a fully padded room, a medical exam room to cut down on hospital costs, a recreation yard and an electronic visitation system.

The electronic visitation system will allow visitors to converse with inmates through computer screens rather than physical interaction. Having electronic visitation will help eliminate contraband, Cryer said.

“It’s safer and saves time,” Cryer said. “We’re able to terminate those visits at any time. We don’t have the extra security risks of a family member sneaking in contraband.”

Funding for the jail was provided by the quarter cent sales tax and through the sale of bonds. The jail is expected to cost around $4.7 million.

The sheriff’s office hasn’t decided what to do with the current cells, but has considered using them as evidence rooms or converting them to offices.

“We have the ability to expand and won’t ever have to build another jail,” Cryer said. “I get an overwhelming sense of pride to know the citizens support us enough to vote in a facility this modern.”