Franklin County Jail Construction Starts - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Franklin County Jail Construction Starts

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PASCO, Wash.-- Construction work is underway to expand the Franklin County Jail to meet the growing number of inmates.

5th Avenue in Pasco is now blocked off to make room for the new building construction.

It's a project that officials said is long overdue.

The Franklin County Jail is over capacity and has been for many years, sometimes holding more than double its intended capacity.

That's why construction, beginning Monday, on a $20 million project to build a new jail and renovate the old one is crucial for the county.

"We've needed this for several years. We've tried for several years to get this passed and find a way to finance this. So it's not a new need. It's a need that's been facing us for a number of years that we've been trying to deal with," said Franklin County Sheriff Richland Lathim.

In 2011, voters approved a 0.3% sales tax for the project.

Recent population growth is wearing on the jail that was built in the 80's and was never meant to hold so many inmates.

"With population growth you're going to have the growth of the negative side of society. We need to have a place where we can house those people and not turn people away that should be in jail, need to be in jail," said Capt. Richard Long, Franklin County Corrections Division.

The jail's original capacity was 102, but the jail now houses an average of nearly 200 inmates.

When the expansion and updates are finished, the jail will have over 300 beds to meet current needs and future growth.

But the project is about more than inmate numbers. It's a safety concern too.

"We want to make sure that liability issues are being taken care of and that we're doing all the things we're supposed to, to keep these people safe, secure and our staff safe as well," Long said.

Construction on the new jail is planned to finish one year from Monday, but it will be another three to five months after that for the current jail updates to be completed.

5th Avenue will be closed until all of the work is done.