With inmates inside the new Fayette County Jail facility for a few weeks now, the Record-Herald contacted Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth on Friday to see how the new structure is working for them so far.
For Stanforth this entire process of replacing the old jail with a new modern system had one main goal in mind: to keep the staff and inmates safe in the jail. He said this new facility does just that — and even with some growing pains — it is serving them well.
“The inmates have a safe environment to live in and the staff has a safe environment to work in, and that is our goal,” Stanforth said. “It is challenging because 30 days ago, you carried a key around and you unlocked the door you wanted to go through, you didn’t have to ask anyone. Now, you have to have permission from a central control operator to even allow you to walk into a door, regardless of where that door is at. The system is intelligent enough to know that two certain doors near each other shouldn’t be open at the same time because that presents an escape risk.”
Stanforth explained this has been an adjustment for the staff because they cannot just walk back to a jail cell, they have to get permission, notify the system where they want to go through, and then a person in central control has to push the button to open a door when it has been cleared.
This process is repeated for all of the doors and it can be frustrating for the staff, but Stanforth said it is standard in every modern correction facility and they just need to adjust to these realities.
“Not only to keep the inmates secure, but it also keeps the staff safe as well,” Stanforth said. “We have established a new set of policies and procedures for the new jail to accommodate this new structure. Even though the standard is all the same no matter where the jail is at — new or old — our procedures in how we accomplish those standards have changed. That has been a big adjustment, this is what Captain Ryan McFarland has been doing. He has been preparing those standards, finding out what process we will use to feed, do the programming, moving inmates, booking inmates, all of those things are a process.”
Stanforth also discussed some recent issues with climate control in the jail that are still being worked through with the manufacturers.
“Now that we have people in the jail, we have to adjust the systems to accommodate having people — staff and inmates — in the jail,” Stanforth said. “Body temperature increases the temperature of the room. So we have been working on adjusting the air conditioning to make it work right and I know the technicians are working on that part to get the right temperature for the building. We are also working on the humidity.”
Stanforth said that they are required to keep a certain air exchange as standard for a correction facility to keep humidity down to a certain level.
He said that technicians are working to maintain proper air exchange while they still maintain air flow to keep humidity at an acceptable level.
“We are working with the manufacturer and installation people to make sure that we get that balance and it may require more than just a mechanical adjustment and may require changing some duct-work to allow air flow to come in,” Stanforth said. “That is beyond my paygrade and that is where the engineer comes in. The system has four air exchange units and they have to work in sync with each other.”
Finally, Stanforth said there are little glitches that come along with any new construction project, but he is glad of the work his staff is doing to try and make the adjustments.
“So we have had to make an adjustment for some things not working or we have to make an adjustment because our expectation is different than what the design is,” Stanforth said. “We have to educate ourselves on the design of this new equipment, which is something we have never had to do and is a big learning curve for the staff. I think they have done a great job on the transition, and we hired additional staff members for the jail. That gets us to where we want to be, I think. We cannot run this jail off of shoestrings, it is not safe. You have to run it properly, efficiently and effectively. We have no more excuse that we have an old building. Everything has to be 100 percent.”
The information in this article was provided by Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 463-9684 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.