New Jail topic!
For over a year Ellis County has been making decisions on building a new jail. The final decision was made to put the new building on the square just south of the Courthouse. This decision was made after other alternatives were found unfavorable. The Commissioners looked at buying land close to the courthouse, but felt the money that would be spent on purchasing land, making improvements to it, as well as the possibility of contaminated soil would be better spent on the new facility. Also, that land had buildings on it that were very old and had history behind them as well.
Where the new jail is going calls for the removal of the Old Log Cabin and the Old Jail. The Old Log Cabin removal came with great concern of citizens of the county. The Boy Scouts of America owned the Cabin and Ellis County had an agreement to keep it at the present location until they needed that area. When this information was discovered, I made many phone calls, texts, meetings and conversations over the fate of the Old Log Cabin. The Boy Scouts of America Cimmaron Troop had a meeting and unanimously voted to give the Cabin to the Town of Arnett. The Town of Arnett Board then made the decision to move the Cabin to Addington Park. That is the Park west of Arnett New Holland. Donny Wright of Wright House Moving in Reydon has taken that task and has worked very carefully on achieving the move without any more structural damage to the Cabin. The Cabin has some major deterioration issues but at this time it is believed to be safe to move with out destruction of it. In my opinion, the new location will be in a much better location for people to see and visit, with it being at the main highway intersection in Arnett.
The Old Jail is the next topic of conversation. The Old Jail is the white building to the southeast of the Courthouse. The "Old Jail" is what it is called by most employees of the County and it is used as storage by most offices. What I have found out through conversations, most people think the Old Jail is the actual Old Jail of Ellis County. This is true to a point. That building you see is what housed the old jail. At some point, I assume from the 1940's to 1980's the jail was removed from the building and the building was an office space and then made into storage. I have no idea what happened to the actual jail cells and equipment. The only thing inside the building that is part of the Old Jail is the poured concrete in the walls, floor and ceiling and the metal bars in the windows. Donny Wright looked at the building to see if it was moveable and unfortunately it is not because it is made of solid concrete. The deputies and I have started cleaning this building out and if anyone is curious to see or has questions about it feel free to stop by if you see us out working on it. My intentions are to save the bars from the windows and anything else we find of historical value. The Old Jail is not actually on the Historical Registry nor is the Old Log Cabin.
The current jail was put on top of the courthouse around the 1940's and not much has changed or been improved due to the location and style of the jail. I never asked to have a new jail built. I was confronted about concerns and liability of the jail and those issues were discussed. The Commissioners have worked diligently on this project as well as the Excise Board to make the best decisions for Ellis County. The decisions they have made, are making it possible to build a new jail without asking the citizens of Ellis County for a bond. The funds that are being used for the new jail are funds that have been set back for such instances. Thus proving, that the Ellis County Board of Commissioners and Excise Board have used your tax dollars appropriately and diligently for such developments in the continued progress of Ellis County.
The new jail is going to be a 30 bed facility. Which exceeds the current jail by 12 beds. The new jail will have segregation cells, that the current jail is lacking. Due to the lack of those cells, currently we have to count on neighboring jails, mainly Woodward and Dewey Counties to house inmates for us when segregation is needed or release them back out into the public on lesser charges or sentencing. In the last several years many laws have changed by legislation and the vote of the people. Two of the most recent, were two State Questions last year that passed by the vote of the people to make drug charges as misdemeanors and for Counties to deal with violators instead of state prisons. One main difference in felonies and misdemeanors are convicted felons have state prison punishments and misdemeanors are county/city jail punishments. Thus putting the burden on Counties.
As your Sheriff, I feel that people who have committed crimes should be punished and face the full punishment handed to them for the crime they have committed and not for the availability and condition of facilities that house them. In the recent past, people have been given a slap on the hand instead of being adequately punished for their crime, there by making the consequences of committing future crimes seem insignificant. This puts citizens at a higher risk of falling victim to crime.
I hope this helps adequately explain the decisions being made for the new jail project. If you have questions please don't hesitate to ask. I did not write this post to argue, simply to help explain the hard work and thorough decision making that have been a part of this project.
Sheriff Shane Booth