New detention center opens in Waurika

WAURIKA, Okla_After six years of waiting, Jefferson County finally voted to restore an old building in Waurika and turn it into a new jail, the Jefferson County Detention Center.

We reported in June of 2011 that the renovations were underway. Originally the jail was to be opened as a private corporation by the Jefferson County Economic Development Authority, but that didn't work. So, the sheriff's department took over the job earlier this year and finished the project.

Two weeks ago, the jail started filling up with inmates from around the state and already the city is feeling an economic boost now that it's here.

Some residents were opposed to the idea of having a jail right in the middle of their small community. They were worried about inmates escaping into their town. But City Manager Chuck Brown said the economic advantages outweighed their concern.

Waurika is a small community. Its residents shop locally, get gas locally and work locally. That's why the Brown, feels the Jefferson County Detention Center is going to give this small town a big boost. The jail is going to employ 25-30 local people.

"25-30 in a town of 2000, that's a big economic impact. Those are people that are working, paying taxes."

The sheriffs department has been pushing for a jail in town for years and about 5 months ago they were able to take over the renovation project from the county economic development authority.

"The building itself isn't new. It's just been remodeled. In fact, it's been here for decades. In the 80's it served as the INS building and until now, it's been sitting here vacant. But soon, it could hold close to 100 inmates."

Brown said the jail will take some of the financial pressure off the county. A second site for the brand new Waurika Community Work Center just down the road from the new jail will also help out. Soon it will also hold close to 100 low security inmates and Brown said his plans aren't stopping there, he wants to expand further.

"Hopefully further down the road, with 100 prisoners down here, 100 prisoners out here, then what the normal jail capacity is, maybe we could affect the hospital and they could dedicate a wing for prisoner treatment."

Brown said the Waurika Community Work Center should be up and running in the next 8 months.