Midland Tent Jail Nearing Completion

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - It's not your average tent, but a new jail facility in Midland County is certainly eye-catching. Overcrowding forced the county to find a new home for inmates, and after several months of construction, the new high-tech tent is nearly ready. It's the first of it's kind in the state to house county inmates.

"It's a tent," Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter, said. "It's going to hold inmates. It's not fancy; it's not frivolous."

The new jail facility is built to house 72 minimum security inmates and there are a few unique features. In the Video Visitation room, inmates will be able to talk to their attorneys through a video conferencing system. The multipurpose room will allow them to hold GED classes and church services. Sheriff Painter tells NewsWest 9 all of this will be ready to go in just three weeks.

"I needed it a long time ago," Sheriff Painter said. "Right now we have inmates housed in 40 counties - that will save us a lot of money bringing those inmates back into Midland County, not having to ship anymore, so it will pay for itself just in that order."

The price tag is about $1.2 million - half of what building a typical jail would run. One of their cost-cutting features is the ceiling. It allows natural light in dropping the day-time electricity bill.

"Looking forward to taking care of citizen's money and being a good steward of what they give us and allow us to have," Sheriff Painter said. "I hope they notice that. We hope they do, anyway."

Sheriff Painter said even though these are minimum security prisoners, a full-time guard and a slew of high-tech security cameras will watch each entrance and every angle inside.

This facility is different from the jail not only in appearance but also in function. Each inmate will be required to clean and do their own laundry.

"We anticipate there will be an increase in the jail population," Sheriff Painter said. "The state penitentiary is getting full, they're backing up. It's going to create more problems for us. I'm in a hurry mode. I want to get it finished. We're going as fast as we possibly can."

While part one of the jail expansion is almost finished, part two is just getting underway. Sheriff Painter said the next phase will include a training department for inmates which teaches them skills and helps them become productive members of society after they leave.

Right now they're in contract negotiations and next week they'll award the bids on the $16 million project.