This week’s construction launch for an $11 million support services at Middleton Jail, in some ways, breathes life into plans that have been on drawing boards for 11 years. But come the spring of 2014 when the project is due for completion, it should be well worth the wait – and the expense.
For the new features the facility will bring to Middleton are indeed improvements that are long overdue.
First and foremost, the new facility will provide space for Essex County to house female prisoners, rather than having to send them to the state’s female correctional facility in Framingham. That’s not just an important step for prisoners and their families — especially those here on Cape Ann, who face a trip to Framingham to visit when a woman has to be incarcerated. It’s also important for attorneys and law enforcement personnel, who also have to meet with a prisoner at times as well. And it will save on both time and travel costs when sheriff’s department personnel have to carry defendants to and from Gloucester District Court and other judicial facilities.
Secondly, the expansion will also allow for an indoor and more secure place for transferring prisoners in and out of vans at the jail. And that’s a boost for law enforcement personnel, who deserve to have a work environment as safe as possible – on what can be a very dangerous job.
It would be nice, of course, if there was no need to expand any jail facilities. But that’s just not the case — and, sadly, will probably never be. To that end, this investment might be called a necessary evil — but with the emphasis on “necessary.” And Sheriff Cousins deserves credit for seeing it through.