MIDDLETON — An $11 million regional support services building now under construction at Middleton Jail will streamline the intake of offenders from various police departments and make their handoff much safer, Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins said.
The state construction project will complete the jail’s campus, Cousins said. It will also allow the jail on Manning Avenue to turn the existing intake facility into a 24-cell jail for female offenders who are presently sent to the women’s state prison, MCI-Framingham.
“We don’t take females here now, so we will be able to take females, also,” Cousins said.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the 17,000-square-foot, single-story building was scheduled for 1 p.m. today. The project is expected to take 14 months to complete. It will be the newest building on the jail’s campus, which also has a $10 million regional emergency dispatch center nearing completion.
The new building is now going up in the parking lot of the jail across from the administration building.
Presently, those who are transported to the jail are driven through double gates in the razor wire-topped fence. Offenders have to walk out in the open into the intake center up a short flight of stairs. The new building will allow for an enclosed port.
“What you will have will be a safer area to take people out of vans,” Cousins said.
The new port can accommodate six police cruisers or vans, and there’s a long bay for the jail’s shuttle or even an MBTA bus if need be.
“If someone bolts, or reaches for someone or does something, they are contained in that area,” Cousins said.
The new building will also make it easier to deal with the daily back-and-forth to court. Even though the jail was built in 1991, the intake area is antiquated and cannot handle the load.