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County adding isolated jail cells as part of annex

Curry County maintenance supervisor Lee Delk demonstrates how to open the food slot on an isolation cell. The county will receive 27 cells to be installed at the new jail annex. CNJ photo by Eric Klut

The 27 steel isolation cells intended for use at the county’s new adult detention facility annex will provide spartan living conditions for prisoners officials decide must be separated from others, Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine said Friday.

Twenty of the white, steel boxes sit in a parking lot at the corner of Eighth and Main streets, with seven more to be delivered in the next few weeks. All 27 are to be installed in the annex sometime in the next 10 months, Burdine said.

The boxes’ walls are of 10-gauge steel, with a quarter-inch plate steel floor and a 1/8-inch-bar grill for a ceiling. They have a single steel shelf on which a bunk will be placed and, once installed, they will have a sink and a toilet, he said.

Inside the detention center annex, they will sit side by side in a long row, lights and sprinklers hanging down from the building’s ceiling, above the cells’ open grillwork.

Incorrigible prisoners can break lights in their cells and trip sprinkler systems, causing them to “dump” water throughout the cell block. Officials hope prisoners won’t be able to reach the lights and sprinklers through the grills, Burdine said.

Existence in the cells won’t be fun, Burdine said. The cells will be small and many, though not all, prisoners will stay in them 23 hours a day, getting an hour outside to shower and take care of personal needs.

“Isolation cells can be used for violent prisoners that prey on others, or for prisoners that are frail, infirm or who have been targeted by other prisoners for one reason or another,” he said.

“There are also those who by the nature of their mental problems need to be isolated,” he said.

“There will be a rec area in the annex and what they’re in isolation for will dictate how long they stay out,” he said.

County purchasing officer Twyla Rutter-Wooley said each cell costs $3,690 to build and $100 to deliver.

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