LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Tuesday was a big day for the residents of Lawrence County, with the dedication and grand opening of the new Lawrence County Sheriff's Office and Detention Center.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended the event, marking his appearance with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony.
The facility is around 22,000 square feet and took about a year and a half to build.
The new facility can hold 113 to 115 prisoners, while the old jail could only hold around 38 to 42 prisoners.
Sheriff Jeff Yates said the new building is not only larger, but more efficient.
"The advantages of this facility, it's so much more secure. As you can see there are no fences around the facility at all," Yates said. "Everything is going to be done within the walls. All your inmates outside will be done within the walls, nobody outside."
Yates said their secure area is "secure" in a big way.
"When you get into what they call a secure area, when you go to the back you go through one door and another door will not open until that first door is closed and locked behind you," Yates said. "So, only one door in that secure area will open at a time. So, if somebody happens to get out there's nowhere for them to go. They're stuck."
Governor Asa Hutchinson said he traveled from Little Rock to congratulate both leaders and citizens of Lawrence County.
"We've had challenges with places to place our prisoners when they are arrested, and if you have to transport a prisoner to another county then the temptation is to just release them because of the cost involved," Hutchinson said. "So, when you don't have a local county jail it really makes it difficult to have safe streets and to have confidence in the rule of law in your community. So, this is really important for a growing county. For a county that really wants to rely upon the rule of law and to increase public safety. So, this is really exciting to see this done. It takes a lot of local leadership, a commitment of the people that pay for this. So, I wanted to make sure I came up here today to congratulate them."
Sheriff Yates said the new detention center has been a long time coming.
"It's been needed for years," Sheriff Yates said. "Luckily the people saw the need and a couple of years ago voted for the tax and here we are today and we're all happy. It's going to be safer for my people. My people are not going to have to worry about going in the cells with them as much because they won't have to, they'll do everything through a bracelet and they're going to go through the computer. It'll just be so much better."
Governor Hutchinson said what impressed him the most was that the citizens saw the need for the facility and made it possible through a sales tax they voted for two years ago.
"The government that is best is closest to the people," Governor Hutchinson said. "This is not something that's been mandated from Little Rock. This is something you did voluntarily here in Lawrence County. And they said hey they were willing to pay for a new detention center so we could increase public safety. This is fantastic. So, it's just important for me as Governor to be here, congratulate them and salute their leadership."
Governor Hutchinson said this will even help them with state prisoners.
"We have limited space in the prison system," Governor Hutchinson said. "So, sometimes it gets backed up in our county jails. And so, this gives us greater capacity statewide in our county jails so we can manage the prison population better. They might stay here another 30 days until we have an opening in the prison system. So, this benefits the state and of course, we pay back for the counties and that helps them to pay for their bond issue and to pay for the facility. So, it's a real partnership with the state in managing our prison population and our local population as well."
Sheriff Yates said he's thrilled to have the building complete and he's ready to get to work in it.
"I'm excited, I hope the people are excited," Yates said. "It's something they ought to be proud of if they come through. It's a new state of the art deal."