ASHLAND • A much needed new jail is just weeks away from opening in Benton County. The 11,000 square foot facility, located on Boundary Drive, will be able to house 55-60 inmates, doubling the current jails maximum capacity.
The community got a sneak peek of the jail Wednesday, Oct 7, during an open house hosted by county supervisors. The project cost just over $4 million, according to Supervisor Ricky Pipkin.
“We were fortunate. We got some money from TVA that allowed us to do this,” said Pipkin.
Benton County receives in lieu money from TVA every month. This money is divided between the schools, roads and bridges, and a special savings account for economic development. The jail will be funded from the special savings account.
Groundbreaking was held in July 2019 for the state-of-the-art facility, which meets all American Correctional Association standards. Benchmark Construction Corporation of Jackson was the general contractor for the entirety of the project. The jail is built so it can be expanded if the need for more cells arises, according to Pipkin.
The new jail features women and men’s cell blocks with open pods that can hold multiple offenders. There are also holding cells and lunacy cells in both cell blocks.
“One benefit of the new jail is we will be able to house more inmates and female inmates,” said Sheriff Robby Goolsby. “It is better suited to house the suicidal and mentally challenged and not have to worry about those inmates as we do at the old jail.”
The old jail cannot house women, and the county currently has to pay Tippah or Marshall County to house their women offenders and overflow when Benton County Jail is full. With the new jail, Benton County will be able to accommodate inmates from other counties if not at capacity.
Another feature of the new jail is the central control room, where jailers will be able to view all pods and open and lock doors.
“We can change the temperature from in here for each of the pods, raise the lights, turn the TVs on and off,” said Jail Administrator Dan Ross from the control room. “You can see everything from here. If the cameras go down, we can still see what is going on.”
Ross added that during inclement weather, a generator will kick on automatically and keep everything operational.
The exercise yard can accommodate all male or female inmates at once when enough jailers are on duty.
“It’s very secure,” continued Ross. “No one is going to be able to walk across the field without being spotted to throw something over the fence. It’s just a much more secure facility here.”
The jail should be ready to house inmates soon once all the bedding and furniture arrive.
“We’re looking forward to having all this extra space,” concluded Ross.
Construction will begin on the new sheriff’s department and 911 office in the coming weeks. Clemmer Construction from Ripley will be in charge of the project.