Inmates move into new justice center jail
by Rachael Griffin
rgriffin@annistonstar.com
May 13, 2013 | 6959 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Officers lead inmates from the old Anniston City Jail to the new jail at the Sollohub Justice Center in downtown Anniston Monday afternoon. Photo by Trent Penny
Officers lead inmates from the old Anniston City Jail to the new jail at the Sollohub Justice Center in downtown Anniston Monday afternoon. Photo by Trent Penny
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Thirty-one inmates did not pass go or collect $200, but they did get a free walk to the new Anniston City Jail Monday afternoon.

The inmates were handcuffed together and escorted by several officers during their transfer from the old facility to the new Justin Sollohub Justice Center.

Anniston police Chief Shane Denham said the jail move was pushed back twice from its original April 29 date because of some “little bugs that needed to be worked out.” Denham said there were some security camera issues to fix and a few doors that were not opening properly.

“Anytime you have a construction project, especially of this magnitude, it’s just going to take a little while to get everything worked out, but it’s coming together,” Denham said.

The Anniston Investigative Division was the first department to move into the Justin Sollohub Justice Center – named after Officer Justin Sollohub, who was killed in the line of duty in 2011 – on April 12. The Uniform Division is scheduled to move on May 30 from its building on 11th Street and Moore Avenue.

The new jail has space for 125 inmates, Denham said, whereas the former Anniston City Jail built in the 1950s could barely hold 80. Denham said 31 inmates were moved Monday. The original jail had hallways too small for two people to walk beside each other and inmates could easily reach a hand out and touch a passerby.

The new jail has three sections, two for men and one for women, with a large open common area that’s well-lit by skylights. The new cells hold four bunks and are at least twice as large as the old compartments. The justice center jail is also equipped with phones and video screens for visitations with inmates.

Denham said he’s planning to hire two or three more jail employees to add to the staff of nine.

“The way that it’s set up we just need a few more people,” he said.

The chief said he’s considering leasing out some of the beds in the jail, but he would not say to whom until plans were finalized. If the plans go through, Denham said, the cost of hiring new employees would most likely even out with the leasing fees.

Jay Jenkins, Anniston city councilman and architect on the $15 million project, said construction wasn’t completed earlier because of weather-related setbacks. Jenkins said several rainy days over the last month halted work on the jail’s outdoor exercise yard.

The councilman said the delay had no effect on the construction contract and that builders were probably only a week behind the formal schedule.

“All these timelines are subject to weather cooperating,” Jenkins said.

The Anniston Police Department building was rescheduled to be demolished on June 3, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the demolition process also gives contractors time to fix any glitches inside the justice center.

“We’ll be able to have those guys on site to address issues as they crop up, but we’re finding very few of those” Jenkins said.

The demolition and clean-up should take three weeks, Jenkins said. The site of the former Police Department will become a fenced parking lot, which should finished by the middle of July.

Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.

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