Two new Wichita County Commissioners are preparing to take over their new roles. While the 2014 Elections are over, political promises remain. Both new commissioners, Lee Harvey, and Jeff Watts, have one common problem they're vowing to address. That's the growing need for improvement to the County's jail.
“I think that, no doubt, the jail is up front,” said new County Commissioner for Precinct 4, Jeff Watts. “We've got to address it.”
“The biggest hurdle that we're going to have to overcome right now is going to have to be our county jail facility,” said new County Commissioner for Precinct 2, Lee Harvey.
Plans for a new booking facility have been in the works since 2009, according to Wichita County Sheriff, David Duke. The current facility is completely full, and overcrowded.
“When our facility was open in 1985 it was made specifically to take about 8 to 10 prisoners a day,” said Sheriff Duke. “ Our average right now is 18 to 33.”
There are many safety issues because of the lack of room, according to Sheriff Duke. But plans are in the works to add on to the current Sprague Annex. The goal is to create a booking space that can handle all prisoners, and have up to date technology that doesn't cause officers to waste precious time.
“Moving the entire Sheriff's Office to the Annex will not only enhance the security of the whole facility, but will have everyone working under one roof,” said Sheriff Duke.
The new jail addition would have more office space, an infirmary, to care for sick prisoners, and even a new kitchen. Currently the kitchen at the jail serves 1500 meals a day, something that Sheriff David Duke said is hard to accommodate with the equipment now.
“One of the major things that we will improve is to build a state of the art, up to date booking area that's safe,” said Wichita County Judge.
The current facility must be updated according to state standards. County officials said they are taking their time to finalize plans and create the and most cost efficient facility.
“The new commissioners coming in will have a set time to meet with the architects and sheriff for a briefing on current plans,” said Gossum. “We want to show them what we're planning and then they're going to wind up being the one who vote on how we go about funding it.”
There is still a long way to go when it comes to breaking ground on the new additions. County officials said if approved, they expect ground to break, at the earliest, by the end of 2015.