Maj. Gene Johnson is looking forward to Tuesday, when he will finally have every inmate under one roof with the opening of the new inmate processing center at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center.
Beginning at 6 a.m., all inmates will start their jail experience at the detention center on Phinizy Road instead of at the old jail at 401 Walton Way.
While construction was underway for the new processing center – the second phase of the Phinizy Road construction project – inmates were processed at the old jail. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office took new inmates to the Phinizy Road jail twice a day. All inmates were permanently moved out of the jail pods in 2012, leaving only the processing center and a few employees in the old building, which was built in 1985.
“We’ll be glad when (the move) is over,” Johnson said.
Road deputies got a tour of the new processing center during the last week of December so they could be prepared for opening day.
“This is just the end of another phase,” Capt. Chester Huffman said. “It’s not a big change. It’s very little.”
The two jails are separated by less than 10 miles, but the miles and time it took to transport prisoners during construction added up. Huffman said 30,000 trips from downtown were made to Phinizy Road in 2012. The trips either involved transport to or from the old jail or the courthouse.
“That’s a big number,” Huffman said. “We’re hoping to make a huge dent in that number right off the bat.”
Jail officials said two new courtrooms opening with the processing center will also help decrease the number.
One court space at Phinizy Road offers a video connection to the courthouse so inmates can have their first court “appearance” without leaving the detention center. Officials said this will increase safety for officers and the community because the inmate doesn’t have to travel across town.
The second room will probably get less use, officials said, but is a more “public” space that provides the opportunity to hold court, complete with a judge and jurors, if needed.
Phinizy Road will also have new camera systems, computers and technology that the old processing center didn’t have.
Johnson said employees have worked tirelessly to move files, equipment and all inmate personal effects, but still have much to do.
“We’ll still be moving stuff for probably the next month or so,” Johnson said.