By Kelsey Givens
After breaking ground last July, the new Nye County jail in Pahrump is slated to be complete by the end of June.
Though it may not look enormous from the outside, the new facility is a much larger and more advanced space then anything the county has currently.
Sheriff Tony DeMeo said the new jail will be able to house up to 224 prisoners; more than five times the amount the current Pahrump jail can hold and more than twice what the Tonopah jail can handle.
While the Nye County Sheriff’s Office may not plan to fill all 224 spaces right away, the facility was built with the ability to expand in the future should the need arise. County officials have also said that one way that the cost of building the facility can be offset is to sell bed space to outside agencies.
Layton Construction is the new jail’s primary contractor. It’s plans call for measured expansion inside the facility as the need arises. Things like the kitchen and laundry room were built bigger than what is needed right now, so more machines or equipment could be purchased should the jail need to house more people, or more cells are added to the structure.
The new building has everything state and federal regulations mandate it have, as well as many other features for added safety.
The Pahrump jail now has one center from which the building is controlled, but there will be two centers in the new jail; one in the front of the building and one near the inmate cells. The control centers are equipped with communication equipment, surveillance video feeds and other technical accessories.
“They can operate the whole facility from the station right here,” DeMeo said of the command center in the front of the building.
And the front center was also expanded into the hallway on the other side, with a wall of windows so detention deputies can constantly see what is going on around them, both by surveillance and with their own eyes.
Something he said deputies working in the jail didn’t have before.
DeMeo said the benefit of having two fully functional tech centers in the building is if something were to happen in the jail, authorities could shut down whichever side of the building it was happening on and still be able to see what was going on and be able to control things from the other center.
The new facility also boasts several new pressurized medical cells with doors wide enough to fit medical beds through them.
“We have to have medical cells here, which we’ve never had before,” DeMeo said. “We can actually pressurize them so we have containment. There’s negative pressure and positive pressures,” he said.
The jail has 12 cell blocks with a unique design.
The blocks all have high ceilings with big windows at the top of the walls so natural light floods the space.
And the blocks are split into two levels, with cells on the floor and on an upper mezzanine level to fit more inmates.
Each cell will have barred doors, but the blocks themselves have large windows across them, to give detention deputies an even better view of what is going on inside them at all times.
DeMeo said they asked their detention deputies for input as they were planning the new cells, and one element that reflects that input is the lack of space between the bunks and wall.
This makes it easier for the deputies to do visual inspections of the cells and prevents inmates from using the gap between the beds and wall to hide things they shouldn’t have.
Another new feature is that plumbing and utility fixtures for each cell can be controlled and maintained from a central location on each block, meaning maintenance can be done outside of the prisoner’s space.
“Presently, if there’s a problem, maintenance has to go into the cell and we have to go in and take all the inmates out, but now we don’t have to do that,” DeMeo said.
Though inmates will receive sunlight through the windows of their blocks, detention is required to give them at least one hour of time outside per day.
The outdoor space in the new jail is simply a concrete area, half open and half covered, where inmates can get some air.
“There isn’t any basketball or shuffleboard,” DeMeo said. “It’s an area where they can come outside, get a breath of fresh air and then go back in,” he said.
Another new feature DeMeo hopes will help the department better save on its food budget is a giant walk-in freezer located in the kitchen.
“One of the things we can do now, which we couldn’t do before, is buy food in bulk,” he said. “It will help reduce costs. Even with the big freezer in Tonopah, we couldn’t take advantage of sales, but now we’ll be able to do that,” he said.
The jail will also have a new video visitation system installed.
There will be several kiosks set up in the area where the public enters the building to use to visit with inmates, but the system may one day also be used to allow those far away to visit by video with inmates from their own homes, DeMeo said.
Outside the jail, a new sally port was also built.
DeMeo said the new port can fit two buses side-by-side and can accommodate lengthwise a bus with a trailer attached.
This will be especially helpful for transporting inmates between detention centers, since they’ll be able to secure the port before bringing the inmates out, ensuring no one can escape during the transfer process.
And though construction may be finished in June, the new facility won’t be ready for inmates until at least August.
“What we’re going to do is the month of July we’re going to do a lot of training in it; then we think by August it will be open for our clientele,” DeMeo said.
“It will be a slow growth, that way our detention staff can get used to the facility and number of inmates itself,” he said.
The cost of the new jail was originally listed at $16.6 million, but was increased through several change orders since last April to $17.7 million.
And as far as the current jail is concerned, it has seen its last days.
“We’re going to destroy it,” DeMeo said.