Sitting in the shadow of its predecessor, the Hall County Correctional Institution opened its doors Friday as Warden Walt Davis praised the county for its commitment to redemption.
“We have a community here in Hall County that is really, really willing to forgive and forget and give people a second chance,” he said.
Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles, who served as the warden before Davis, joined Hall County officials for the unveiling of the new facility.
“It’s good to see it come to fruition,” Niles said.
Bill Coates, First Baptist Church of Gainesville’s senior pastor, offered a prayer for the inmates and the new facility.
“Bless those who come here because they have done wrong, and I pray that during their time here, they might learn what it means, that redemption is always possible,” he said.
The 200-bed facility replaces the 53-year-old facility up the street. By working as its own contractor, Hall County officials built the prison on a $3.6 million budget compared to an estimated $7 million price tag under conventional means.
In 2014, inmates provided more than $2.5 million in free labor, Davis said.
In addition to a “state-of-the art” touch screen system for the guards, the warden praised the facility’s new heating and air conditioning abilities compared to the old facility.
In the kitchen, Sgt. Jim Lockaby marveled at the new equipment in his workplace that keeps the space compact and climate controlled.
“I never thought I’d see it happen,” Lockaby said.
Of particular pride for Hall County officials is the Re-entry Accountability Court Treatment Program, a three-tiered process of substance abuse treatment and vocational training. The participants are housed separately.
Hall County Commission Chairman Richard Mecum lauded the work by Davis and other corrections officials around the state for their work to “bring humanity to this whole thing.”
“The mentality is beginning to change, thank goodness, where we’re stopping the idea of just warehousing people and turning them loose when their time is up,” Mecum said.