Mayor tours new justice center - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Mayor tours new justice center

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

For the first time, NBC12 cameras were allowed inside Richmond's new jail. We took a tour along with the mayor, sheriff and commonwealth's attorney.

The $135 million facility is on schedule to bring the city's justice system into the future.

Crews are now beginning work in the interior of the facility. It's a day some thought they'd never see for this controversial project, which is years in the making.

By all admissions, it took a lot to get here. The process to pick a proposal and contractors for the state-of-the-art project was controversial and hotly debated.

"I think this is a complicated process but at the end of the day look where we are," Mayor Dwight Jones said Wednesday.

The new design targets issues that have plagued the more than fifty-year-old current jail.

"This modern state-of-the-art facility is really going to make a big difference and really ensure that our citizens will no longer be in a facility that in my estimation is not fit for human beings to be in," Jones maintained.

The new construction has a pod setup with direct supervision. The deputies will be with the inmates.

Overcrowded general population rooms will be a thing of the past. Instead of an inmate-guard ratio of 130:1, the complex allows for 45:1.

But the current population of 1,345 won't fit into the 1,032 new beds. Decreasing the numbers is a joint effort.

"There are so many options that we can go to," Sheriff C.T. Woody explained. "It'll take time but it'll work because it has worked all over the world. Alternative sentencing is the key."

The complaints about medical care, which we've seen over the years, should no longer come up. We're told the infirmary is really a hospital within the jail.

"What we have here is really the ability to care for and treat those that are committed to Sheriff Woody's custody here at the facility rather than sending them out to local facilities," Lt. Col. Roy Witham said.

Deputies also will not have to deal with the barred-doors of a typical jail cell, which the sheriff's office says will eliminate problems with locks.

The jail is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2014.

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