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MEEKER I Roughly 60 people were on hand for an open house for the new state-of-the-art Rio Blanco Justice Center on Friday.
Gathering first in Courtroom B, one of two new courtrooms, an honor guard from the VFW opened the event by leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Honorable James Boyd, the 9th Judicial District chief judge, then welcomed everyone and offered a few remarks. He spoke briefly of “two foundations that are central to Rio Blanco County, to who we are as the State of Colorado, and even to who we are as the United States.”
Boyd spoke of education being the first foundation, even to the fact that the outer walls of the building began as the outer walls of the old Meeker Elementary School.
“It’s an awesome task to move on from that,” he said.
Boyd then went on to the second foundation: justice.
“People need and deserve a place they can go where they can trust that they will be heard fairly by an impartial person or jury,” he said. “This is a place where the decision they get will be based on principle, not power or personal preference. The tool we use to get that justice is the Rule of Law. That is our mission.”
Judge Boyd then introduced Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court Nancy E. Rice. Her remarks included what a facility like this does for people’s attitude.
“With a beautiful facility like this, everyone sits up a little bit straighter and probably takes it all a little more seriously,” she said. “Everyone feels a little bit better about the process and result.”
Justice Rice also praised the 9th District as being among the very best of the 22 judicial districts in Colorado.
Calling the new Justice Center “an amazing accomplishment,” she ended with, “Congratulations to all of you.”
After a short break, during which attendees could wander at their leisure, about 20 regathered for a tour of the new detention center led by Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Brice Glasscock and aided by Sgt. Jeremy Muxlow and Detentions Sgt. Kim Cook.
By far the most outstanding characteristic of the new facility over the old is security. Getting from the jail to the courtroom in the old facility required going through a public lobby. The new facility, however, has secured hallways for all such needs.
Also unlike the old building, which had only key access, there is now not only key access on certain doors, but keycard and pin number access on others, as well as remote access only on still others. The latter are controlled from a control booth where technicians monitor the entire facility via video surveillance.
Compared to the 13 cameras in the old facility there are 87 in the new one, 60 of which are in the jail itself.
“Everything in the jail is now on video and audio,” Glasscock said. “All the entrances are also covered.”
Another enormous improvement in the new jail is not only two holding cells for adults in the booking area but also a juvenile holding cell to keep juveniles separate.
Typically, a holding cell is for securing a person during the booking process as well as for someone who is awaiting their court case to be heard by the judge.
Another dramatic difference in the new jail are the cell blocks, called “pods.” Three of the four are identical. One pod is for women. Each has four cells, each of which holds two prisoners
Each pod consists of a common area with stainless steel tables and several individual maximum security cells, each with a surveillance camera.
The fourth pod is minimum security for trustees, so there are no cells, just a larger common area with bunk beds along the walls.
The total capacity is also drastically different between old and new. While the old jail accommodated only 18 prisoners, the new houses 34, with 24 in pods 1–3 and 10 more in pod 4.
While not finalized, Undersheriff Glasscock indicated that the total cost of the Justice Center was about $16 million.