The $110 million expansion will add 1,152 beds and state-of-the-art security technology to the facility and is to become operational in mid-June, according to Sheriff Neil Warren. It was approved by voters in the 2005 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, which also approved the new county courthouse now nearing completion.
Among the features of the expansion are an alternative intake area that allows violent and unruly arrestees to be booked without disrupting the general intake; rapid thumbprint ID devices that let jailers get records from the state to ensure an arrestee is not giving a false name; an electronic warrant interchange system that lets arresting officers secure warrants in minutes, thereby reducing processing time; and video conferencing facilities for visitation, attorney-client meetings and first appearances before a judge.
The expansion is badly needed, what with 2,600 inmates typically in the 1,925-bed present jail each night.
The $13.5 million, 685-bed original portion of the Cobb County Adult Detention Center opened in 1987 on what is now County Services Parkway. Prior to that, arrestees had been housed on the top floor of the Public Safety Building a block off Marietta Square, which in the early 1970s had replaced the old early 1900s-era jail on roughly the same site.
But by the early 1980s Cobb's population - and crime rate - had grown so much, and the jail had grown so overcrowded, that a federal judge ordered the county to build a replacement facility. That replacement (the current jail) was built with money from the county general fund, an expensive way to pay for capital facilities. County voters had learned their lesson, and have approved SPLOST referendums to pay for the expansions since then, including the current one.
The new expansion makes Cobb's jail the second-largest in Georgia, after DeKalb's. It is a civic accomplishment to be proud of - not that there is sufficient crime in Cobb to keep it filled, but that the county jail is as modern, as spacious and as professionally run as it is.
That's a testament to Sheriff Warren and his jailers - and to county voters who agreed that it was needed.