A regional lockup center run by the Middlesex Sheriff's Office has been approved at an estimated $1.5 million after politicians and police officials pushed for the additional center.
"Securing funding for the regional holding facility was a team effort that included every police chief in Middlesex County," said Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian. "A regional lockup will help save local departments money and allow them to take officers off prisoner watch and put them on community watch."
The Executive Office of Administration and Finance recently committed to funding the $1.5 million estimated project cost using capital expenditures. While the money has not been allocated from a specific funding mechanism yet, this represents a step in the right direction, said Marlborough Police Chief Mark Leonard who had supported the project along with the other Middlesex police chiefs.
"We are not set up to house prisoners (in the police department) for any length of time," said the chief of the department's holding cells which there are more of than in smaller departments. ""The issue comes in with the Friday night arrests and the long weekend ... local police departments don't have facilites that are geared towards that."
When someone is arrested, they must be detained until their apearance in court unless they can make bail. In the case of a Friday night arrest, this may mean days of holding a prisoner until the court opens on Monday or Tuesday during a long weekend. Having the option to send prisoners to a regional facility run by the Sheriff's Department would address issues of liability, cost to the city and appropriateness of housing conditions, said Chief Leonard.
"The Sherrif's Department; that is part of what they do," he said explaining they have systems to monitor detainees such as those on 24 hour suicide watch.
"If we can have them housed in a more appropriate facility it's a better situation."
When someone is held at the department they must be monitored and fed by a police officer, which takes an officer off their regular duties and may require someone to be brought in on overtime, said Chief Leonard.
Under a regional lock-up proposal endorsed by the Middlesex Chiefs of Police, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office would hold detainees in a safe and secure location at the Billerica House of Correction, according to Sheriff Koutoujian. The details of how the housing will be carried out is still unclear, said Chief Leonard, but with the funding secured those next steps can be undertaken.