NJ county plans $23M jail expansion

157,000-s.f. of additions and renovations planned


TOMS RIVER - Plans to expand the Ocean County Jail are moving ahead as the Board of Freeholders gets ready to appropriate $23 million toward the project.

"This funding ordinance will be used to cover the cost of purchasing and installing prefabricated inmate housing units," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, who serves as Director of Law and Public Safety. "The housing units are a big part of the planned expansion of the jail."

Kelly noted that by pre-ordering the units the county will have them available when they need to be installed and will also save money for ordering them early.

The Board of Freeholders is scheduled to introduce the spending measure during its Nov. Nov. 7 meeting and a public hearing will be held on the ordinance during the board's Nov. 20 meeting.

The expansion and renovation plans for the jail calls for 157,000 square feet of additions and alterations at the Ocean County Justice Complex located on Hooper Avenue, here.

"This expansion has been discussed and stuthed for more than two years," Kelly said. "It's really a matter of maintaining public safety that we are undertaking this project."

The county plans to add space for an additional 400 beds, which would increase the jail capacity to 680 beds.

"We will not have sentences shortened because we don't have the room to house inmates," Kelly said. "This is a practice that may happen elsewhere but not in Ocean County."

The proposed expansion would include the construction of new space at the rear of the Justice Complex and a two-story addition on the soudi side of the existing building. The Ocean County Jail currently is located on the fourth and fifth floors of the Justice Complex.

According to a needs assessment completed in 2005, since 1985 when the Board of Freeholders opened the jail atop the Ocean County Justice Complex, the County's population has increased by almost 200,000 people. Since that time period, new mandatory sentencing laws have gone into effect resulting in longer jail terms; municipalities have employed more police officers resulting in an increase in patrols and arrests.

The combination of both increasing admissions at the Ocean County Jail and increased average length of stay has created a higher average daily population at the jail according to the study done by Carter Goble Associates, Inc. The current average population at the facility routinely exceeds more than 500 inmates while the jail was built to hold 280.

"An expansion of the facility is needed to meet the current and future needs of the Ocean County Jail population," Kelly said. "Because of the growing numbers we cannot separate inmates which creates security and safety problems in particular for our corrections officers.

"The expansion will address all those concerns and will result in a safer facility for our officers and the public at large," Kelly said.

The expansion is designed to meet the needs of the county's inmate housing requirements until 2025 and all inmate areas would continue to be within a maximum-security perimeter.

With the alterations, support functions that already exist including intake areas, laundry facilities and the medical unit will be improved.

The county last year awarded a contract to Fletcher Thompson Architecture Engineering, LLC of East Brunswick to proceed with the design and permit approval phase of the project.

The design and permit approval phase is expected to take about 12 months to complete while the actual construction will take about 30 months. The entire project including the bidding and award of the work is expected to take about 45 months to complete. increasing admissions at the Ocean County Jail and increased average lengtii of stay has created a higher average daily population at the jail according to the study done by Carter Goble Associates, Inc. The current average population at the facility routinely exceeds more than 500 inmates while the jail was built to hold 280.

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