The St. Lucie County jail is getting a new addition to make visitation safer, especially during these days of COVID-19.
The average inmate stays in the county jail an average of 8-months, but during that time, they and their loved ones will now have access to more frequent visitation.
County leaders and project organizers broke ground Wednesday on a 7200 square foot visitation center.
“Inside, inmates need to be able to communicate with their loved ones, their family, as well as friends, to get through this process of being incarcerated,” said St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara.
The building will be located outside of the secure area of the jail where visitation calls are currently made.
“COVID made us rethink this entire process,” Mascara said.
Right now, the jail has 46 active cases of COVID-19.
“We were going a long time with zero cases, then all of a sudden it blew up about 10 days ago. Keeping outsiders from inside the jail will definitely mitigate the COVID situation.”
The new facility will also help stop contraband from entering the jail.
“One thing in a jail, you will always find contraband that is brought in from outsiders. That contraband can be drugs, I don’t think we’ve ever had a weapon brought it, but drugs is the number one concern of ours,” Mascara said.
Right now, the jail allows 36 visitations per hour, four days per week.
The new facility will allow for 60 visitations per hour, five days per week.
With a growing population, incarceration rates and the need for more visitations is expected to keep rising.
“The inmates are going to benefit, families are going to benefit, our employees who work inside are going to benefit, and our community is going to benefit,” Mascara said.
The $750,000 project is being paid for by Aramark and GTL, two companies that provide food services and phone services to the jail.
That means taxpayers are not on the hook for any of the project costs.
The facility is set to be completed by November.