One of the most prominent construction projects in downtown Fort Worth is getting closer to completion. The new Tarrant County jail facility will increase the number of much needed maximum security beds.
On any given day Tarrant County jails house between 3,300 and 3,500 inmates a day.
"If you need a bed to sleep in tonight we've got plenty," Executive Administrator for the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department, Terry Grisham said.
But that's not the case for more serious inmates and trouble makers. For example female maximum security beds are 90 percent full.
"We don't hardly have spaces for those and that's what this new jail is for," said Grisham.
Drivers along West Weatherford and Belnap Streets are familiar with construction crews and cranes stopping traffic to move equipment and materials. When all the construction is complete there will be 444 maximum security beds in the new facility, but most importantly there will be a significant addition of medical beds. The fifth floor of the new building will house 96 medical beds and create separate men's and women's units for prisoners.
One of the biggest challenges for the project was the design, as it needed to fulfill the maximum security role while also remaining visually appealing to the downtown area. And as the bricks and granite go up, that appears to be exactly what taxpayers are getting.
"We're going to have a building that's sort of ironic, we're going to have the prettiest jail in Texas with some of the meanest people in Texas housed in it," said Grisham.
When completed the jail will become Tarrant County's fourth LEED certified building, built with energy efficient and green initiatives. Tarrant County Facilities Management Director, David Phillips said county staff believes it will be the first multi-story maximum security jail to achieve that certification.
Inmates won't likely be in the facility until next summer, but by the beginning of the year the jail's kitchen should be up and running. Jail officials will have several months of testing the facility to produce all of the county's jails with 12,000 meals a day.
"We're just excited to put it online and get busy," said Grisham.
The jail will cost $83.2 million, which is less than what voters approved. Phillips said the remaining money will go toward jail facility maintenance.