A new Lawrence County jail is in consideration

BEDFORD – Sanjay Patel, a project manager, and Cole Walters, a graduate architect with RQAW presented the 261 page Lawrence County Jail Justice Study to the commissioners this morning following their regular meeting.

Sheriff Mike Branham asked the commissioners in May 2021 to conduct the study to assess whether the county should build a new jail or add on to the current building.

Sheriff Mike Branham

“With the current overcrowding issues and the age of the building, which is more than 30 years, we are facing numerous maintenance issues and they are developing more and more,” said Sheriff Branham before the study began. “My term is almost up and I don’t want to leave this to the next sheriff to deal with. I feel it is my duty to look at a feasibility study to build a new jail or build on. We need a plan.”

The cost of the study was $7,000 and is required by state law.

The jail has a rated capacity of 180 inmates and therefore a classification threshold of 144 inmates. Several months a year the jail is significantly over that threshold. Added onto that is that the average length of stay for an inmate has increased significantly averaging 34 or more days.

According to the study the jail needs to be able to house 260 inmates safely.

A new jail could cost between $39,245,179 to $45,609,262 or more depending on where the new facility would be built.

If a new jail is built not in the city limits the cost of putting in utilities would increase the cost.

Officials conducting the study also looked at several sites to build a new jail. They felt option one on the photos below was the best option.

Below is the proposed layout of the new jail if built off of Beech Street.

Here is a rendition of what the inside of a cell block would look like.

Officials stress that this is just a study and no decision has been made on where, when, or if a new jail will be built. Officials will review the report and several discussions will be held before making any decisions.