Dunklin County Set to Open New Justice Center

December 15, 2006--Posted at 6:45 p.m. CST

KENNETT, MO -- The Dunklin County Justice Center was built several decades ago and designed to hold around 40 inmates. Like a number of counties in Region 8, their jail facility has become too small as Dunklin County now has over 70 inmates.

To counteract that growth, the county has built a $9.5 million complex and Friday took the wraps off the new facility. Citizens in Dunklin County unwrapped an early Christmas present...a new justice center.

"A lot more functional. We'll have a lot more services we can provide prisoners, it's a lot safer than the jail downtown," said jail administrator Rod Hargrove.

The state of the art facility is complete with a touch screen computer system that will have control of locks, cells and lights anywhere in the building. The project is nearing completion and should be equipped to handle a larger undertaking than the old justice facility.

"What we are hoping to do is not only hold county and city, but also federal prisoners as well to help pay for the facility," said Hargrove.

In order to make the project happen, the county had to find unique ways to cut corners and save money. The most inventive way involved using an old industrial building as a site instead of constructing a new facility.

"There's always those empty buildings in your town that's hard to find a use for. So, when this facility was available, it's a great building that was built in 1980, concrete walls, it was in relatively good shape, so when the architects did their study things just pointed in this direction," said Dunklin County Presiding Commissioner Don Collins.

The Dunklin County Justice Center will have the capacity to accomodate 175 inmates and should last the county well into the future. It was made possible when residents in the county approved a half cent sales tax

"I just believe our taxpayers saw the need and took the initiative to pass the tax for us," said Collins.

The Dunklin County Justice Center is putting on the final touches on the building and expects to become operational in late January to early February. The jail portion of the project is just phase one of the Dunklin County Justice Center.

The second phase will cost $1.5 million dollars and will involve constructing courtrooms on site with the jail.