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Hall passes on Gainesville detention center

POSTED: January 7, 2014 1:03 a.m.

A proposal to turn a privately run detention center in Gainesville into the new home of the Hall County Correctional Institute failed to gain any traction at Monday’s county commissioners meeting.

“The mission of the correctional institute is to provide work details for the county,” Warden Walt Davis told the Hall County Board of Commissioners. “The (detention center) is not ideally designed for that mission.”

A study of the building at 622 Main St. has shown “significant renovations would be necessary and that we would need just one part of the building,” an area now occupied by Hall County Sheriff’s Office administration, Davis said.

He said the building, where the Corrections Corp. of America had planned to cease operations by the end of 2013, also has “very little programming space,” he said.

Areas that were converted to medical spaces “can be reconverted, but a cost would be involved,” Davis said.

The detention center seemed to be a ready option after CCA announced late in 2013 that the facility would be closed by the end of the year.

“There’s been some talks (about) whether it would work for us,” Stowe said at the time. “And whether it would really work for the city, because their eventual goal was to tear it down,” said Commissioner Jeff Stowe.

According to Stowe, city officials approached the county with the option of the downtown detention center.

Gainesville financed the purchase of the North Georgia Detention Center from Hall County for $7.2 million in October 2012.

After hearing Davis’ assessment of a possible move, Commissioner Billy Powell said, “The correctional institute was set up for prisoners to come and go, and this (detention center) was set up for inmates to stay awhile.”

The correctional institute at 1694 Barber Road has housed state prisoners since 1963.

Davis has said the building is too old and there are too many code violations for renovations.

Commissioners were considering awarding a $248,000 contract to IPG Inc., an architecture and planning firm out of Valdosta, for the design phase of a new correctional institute, to be built next door to the existing building.But commissioners agreed to hold off voting on the contract to explore other design options.

“Prior to Walt coming here, there was another group of architects and construction people that have spent a lot of time on proposals for a new (correctional institute),” Powell said.

The new institute could be built on property between the current building and the Hall County Jail, facing the jail, Davis said.

Another key feature of the new correctional institute will be the Hall County Re-entry Accountability Court Transition program, intended to help qualified inmates transition back into the community with educational and vocational training. The goal is to reduce recidivism rates, and would play a large role in the development of a new building.


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