SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 27, 2013

New jail facility to smooth inmate intake

(Continued)

“It’s like Grand Central Station because it backs up,” Cousins said. “On an average day, we send 75 to 100 people to court.” The present intake building was designed for a jail of 550, but yesterday, about 1,050 were housed at the jail.

“It will make it a lot safer to have people go out to court,” Cousins said.

The new building will come with a property area with a conveyor belt system, similar to those found at a dry cleaner, to handle personal property. Presently, people’s belongings are bagged, tagged and stored. There will be an area where people can change and an area for those who might be suffering the effects of drinking or drugs or who have medical or mental health issues.

There’s a new records area and a separate area where a family member can wait to post bail. Another area will focus on facial recognition and an automated fingerprint identification system. A “risk area” will handle those who are unruly.

The facility will also use an “open booking concept,” Cousins said, used in county lockups in Florida, Maine and elsewhere. This means those waiting to be processed, and who do not need to be confined, will wait in an open area, similar to how a hospital emergency room works.

“Everyone thinks that people are going to be aggressive and charging everybody,” Cousins said, “but the truth of the matter is if you have the right facilities, you don’t have to have everybody put into a holding tank or a holding room.”

The facility will also allow the jail to expand the use of video-conferencing so there will be less need to take inmates to and from court.

The new support services building will also come with facilities and toilets for women, and the existing intake center will be gutted and outfitted with 24 cells for women.

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