Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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An open house was held on Saturday to display the new Canadian County Jail expansion. (Staff photo by Jon Watje)

By Jon Watje
Managing Editor 

EL RENO - When David Anderson began campaigning for the Canadian County District 2 Commissioner job six years ago, it didn’t take him long to realize the need for a new jail facility.

"I am just ending my fifth year as commissioner, and ever since I took office the jail has been the number one issue," Anderson said.

On Saturday, Canadian County unveiled its new jail facility to the public.

"I was very pleased to see the final product," Anderson said. "Although I understand this is not a permanent solution, it is a very big step for us."

Two failed bond proposals for a new county jail in recent years forced Anderson and other officials to devise a plan to fund a facility using money from the General Fund. The result was a $5 million, 120 bed dormitory added onto the current 72 bed facility next to the Canadian County Courthouse.

The county was threatened with fines from the state jail inspector, who said overcrowding at the old jail violated jail standards. To stay in compliance, the county began transporting prisoners to house them in other county jails.

The cost to do so was significant, costing the county around $500,000 a year.

"We are using funds from our general budget to pay for the new facility, and that will now also save us half a million dollars a year from having to transport prisoners," Anderson said. "It will take us about 10 years to pay off the new facility, but with the growth of the county and the need to expand for the future, we may have to accelerate that."

On Saturday morning, the county opened up the new jail to give tours to the public.

The entrance alone is big change from the old facility, which not only acted as a public entrance, but as a booking area as well where visitors and inmates would share the same room.

"The entrance is totally separate from the booking area, which adds to the safety of the facility," said Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards.

The facility includes a large laundry and kitchen area.

"Since we are planning to expand the facility in the future, the laundry and kitchen facilities are large enough for a much larger facility than what we have now," Anderson said.

There are two, two-story dormitories that have 60 beds each with a control room, that contains security camera screens, overseeing both rooms.

The jail houses a variety of offenders, ranging from violent offenders such as convicted rapists and murderers to those convicted of non-violent crimes.

"We will put our non-violent offenders in the new, dormitory portion of the jail, while we will put our more violent offenders in the older part," Anderson said.

Although the new facility will prove to be a step in the right direction for the county, Anderson said he and other officials will have to start devising a new plan on how to house the growing number of prisoners.

"Right now, we are incarcerating around 200 people, so when we open this facility, we will already be full," he said. "We are the fastest growing county in the state so that number will just continue to rise. We do need to expand even more, but right now we are limited on what we can afford for a second phase, but that is a problem we will have to solve."

For the time being, Anderson said he is just happy to see the progress made with the new facility.

"It is very gratifying," he said.

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