Groundbreaking begins for Smith County Jail - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Groundbreaking begins for Smith County Jail

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Construction began Thursday on a $35 million jail improvement plan for Smith County. Supporters say getting to this point has been a battle 16 years in the making. 

Turning over the groundbreaking dirt has been a dream in the making for nearly two-decades. 
 
"Took a long time. It's taken me 15 years to see this happen," said Sheriff J.B. Smith.  

After four bond elections, the jailhouse plan passed. Ironically, during Sheriff J.B. Smith's final term as sheriff. This year, he's retiring. 
 
"This time the public saw through. They listened to the court and they realized this is something that we really needed," said Smith. 

After a third failed attempt, Judge Joel Baker says the decision to present a plan again to the public was difficult.

"Many of us really didn't have the heart to carry on at that point. We felt down because of unsuccessful bond elections, but we had one commissioner in January of 2009, who wanted to carry the torch on that project and that's commissioner Jeff Warr," said Baker. 
     
Commissioner Jeff Warr says the county is wasting millions of dollars sending inmates out of the currently overcrowded jail. 

"There's a real problem in our existing facility, as far as safety, and we've been very, very fortunate that we haven't had employees killed or seriously injured," said Warr. "So, this will help alleviate a lot of those issues." 

For the next 36 weeks, they will work on updating the kitchen and laundry services to streamline jail service.  After that, construction will move to downtown Tyler where they will build the jail supporters have been fighting for, for 16 years.

We're told they will also add a video visitation station for the inmates at the low risk facility. 

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