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The expanded Washington County Detention Center is about ready to house inmates and the public will get its first view this Saturday at a special open house.

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The addition increases the number of beds to 204 and includes a new kitchen and laundry area
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Sheriff Claude Combs took my on a tour through the new addition of the Washington County Jail in May 2014 along with Chief Deputy Sheriff Roger Newlon.
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Looking into a cell block area where prisoners will be housed in cells manufactured in Georgia and trucked to Salem and installed.
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This view of another Cell Block shows an area for prisoners to congregate outside of their cells on the lower level.
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Sheriff Claude Combs stands in the command center were jail personnel can view all cell blocks at one time. A state-of-the-art surveillance system has been installed.

According to Commissioner Dave Brown, the public can attend this open house from 11a to 6p.

“We’re getting ready to put a small batch of inmates in next week just to test out the systems,” said Brown. “We want the public to see what it looks like and how this project has progressed.”

To date, just over $9 million has been spent on the jail project. That’s less than the maximum $12 million the county may spend without a referendum.

And good news for Superior Court Judge Frank Newkirk – there is about $1.5 million left over from the jail that could help expand the tight quarters of the courtroom.

Individual cells are located around the perimeter of the new jail with a command center in the middle — an elevated room, from which jail personnel can see every pod and every cell. Security cameras, some 58 of them, will assist jail personnel with keeping an eye on the prison population. The control center will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“You won’t move anywhere in here where you won’t be watched,” Sheriff Claude Combs told me during a tour back in August.

The pre-fabricated cells, complete with built in fixtures such as beds, were made at a plant in Georgia and trucked to the site. There are two-, four- and eight-person cells, grouped in clusters or pods.

Each pod has a common area.

The cells are made of steel, similar to what is used on battleships.

One cell in each block is handicapped accessible.

A maintenance corridor runs behind the cells; workers can access plumbing and electrical systems without actually entering the cell.

The addition is equipped with a backup generator in the event of a power outage; a battery provides power for the few minutes it takes for the generator to kick in.

There is a state of the art security system, only one door in the new facility can be opened at a time.

Combs said some employees recently visited Stanley Security Solutions in Noblesville to learn about the new security system.

Combs explained that the new system is an enhanced, upgraded version of the one in place at the old jail, so employees are already familiar with its basics.

The current jail dates to 1986 and was designed for a population of 56. These days, the population runs from the mid-80s to the high 90s.

The addition increases the number of beds to 204 and includes a new kitchen and laundry area.