Commission inspects Justice Center as it nears completion

Updated: Jun 28

Linn County Commissioners Danny McCullough, left, and Jim Johnson, inspect a block of jail cells in the new Linn County Judicial Center. (Photos by Roger Sims, Linn County Journal)

MOUND CITY – Trim carpenters worked on finishing cabinetry in the large courtroom, a drywall finisher touched up a wall, painters touched up around a cell doorway, and the Linn County Internet systems technicians worked to get wiring and monitors installed in the main control room for the new Linn County Justice Center as the Linn County Commissioners toured the nearly completed complex on Monday, April 18.

Bill Matlock with River City Construction, the primary contractor on the building, led commissioners through the complex, which includes a jail with 60 cells (with room for more than 30 additional cells), a new headquarters for the Linn County Sheriff's Office, and two courtrooms, a jury room, and offices where attorneys can meet with their clients.

Bill Matlock with River City Construction, right, talks describes the functions of the jail's control room with McCullough and County Counselor Gary Thompson.

With a "punch list" of items to be completed or fixed expected to be developed on Tuesday, commissioners were critical of areas that had noticeable mortar splatter on the walls, where painting was uneven and cracks in a slab of concrete. Matlock pointed out that much of the painting lower on the walls had not received a final coat until all of the equipment was moved into place.

The single-occupant cell has, from left, a built-in slab for a mattress, a toilet-sink combination, a shower and shelves.

Information Technology Director Chris Martin and other staff in his department stepped out of the jail's control room area as the tour group went through. That department has been working on installing communications and monitoring equipment throughout the building.

Matlock explained to the commissioners that, in addition to video monitors, the jail staff can keep track of inmates through one-way mirrors that allow the staff to observe prisoners but appear to be a mirror to the inmates.

The northwest section of the jail has cells and eating areas that are more like a dormitory. The dark metal fencing on the mezzanine for the second-story cells is installed to keep inmates from scaling or being thrown over a railing.

Despite the number of windows on the exterior of the jail wing on the west side of the building, the window are offset from the windows in the cells. The prisoners can see daylight through the windows, however, they cannot see much else outside.

While there is an area inside the sheriff's office space that can be used as a tornado shelter for the deputies, jailers, judges, attorneys and other staff, the jail cells themselves are shelters. The shelters are designed to withstand F-5 tornados.

The entry into the sheriff's office has bullet-proof windows, with a shallow tray to pass papers back and forth. The walls are bullet resistant.

The entryway into the sheriff's office on the east side of the building has double doors, and once inside the visitor is surrounded by bullet resistant walls that have a ballistic liner. The receptionist can either allow a visitor into the staff area for the office or toward the courtroom area.

Inside the area for the sheriff's staff, there are offices, a squad room and temporary cells to hold people who are either not going to be held over night or are still waiting to be processed.

Gary Thompson, center in the green jacket, talks with Commissioners, from left, Rick James and McCullough, Matlock from River City and Commissioner Johnson about how the small courtroom will be used. He said the first trial scheduled for the small courtroom is set for mid-July.

The two courtrooms – one larger and one smaller – are accessible by the public from the main entry door on the south side of the building, or from the sheriff's office. There is also a separate entrance from the jail, an improvement over the current system where prisoners must be taken outside from the jail building to the court building.

The smaller courtroom is set up with a jury box that holds six people. In addition to a large monitor screen on side wall near the judge's seat, there are also three smaller monitors inside the jury box, and the jury box can be equipped with headphones for jurors who are hearing impaired.

Carpenters work on the trim around an area in the main courtroom. The seating for spectators in both courtrooms is like church pews.

Thompson said that six-member juries are common in civil cases, and the smaller courtroom will be used for trials like juvenile cases and adoption hearings that don't usually draw large attendance.

Still left to be finished as well is parking for the Justice Center. In excavating for the parking lot, the contractor found soil that was unstable, which could quickly lead to problems.

The front of the Justice Center, which faces south toward Main Street in Mound City, is complete. However, problems with unstable earth under the area for the parking lot has led to efforts to excavate further than expected.

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