Wright said the building on an 11-acre tract was once used as a poorhouse before it became a rest home. It reverted back to county control when the rest home closed.
"We were already looking at closing off the detention center basement garage and converting it into a facility for the women inmates, but we knew it was going to be expensive," Miller said. "This setup is perfect for custody of low level class D women," the jailer said. "I decided it could make money and alleviate the overcrowding at the jail. We're holding 45 women, mostly minimum security, now."
Brad Rainwater, who works in maintenance at the Detention Center, is overseeing the project. He said teams of from four to six state male inmates spend five days a week at the old rectangular building that has a large room at the front entrance and smaller rooms on either side of a hallway that stretches the length of the building.
They have put a primer coat of paint on the dark paneled walls and are currently texturing the ceilings in each room. Work on a metal roof began last week, but has been delayed because of rain.
Two consultants hired by the county measured and checked out the building Thursday but had no comment afterward.
Windows in the building have already been covered with boards. The exterior also will be covered with vinyl siding, bathrooms will be redone and an office will be added, said Miller. A razor-wire fence and guard station will be included. Cameras that will be manned from the detention center's control room also will be installed. This can be done by inmates, too.
"I think we can get the building ready for about $20,000 and add jail beds at a low cost. The sprinkler system and fire alarms are already there, Miller said. "We'd also have to fence in a recreation area," he said.
Most of the women work every day
Miller said most of the women work every day, and the escape risk is little to none. "If they want to escape, they could do that while working out during the day."
The county already has a successful work program for minimum security female class D felons. They tended a 5-acre garden this summer, and spend numerous hours cleaning the courthouse and keeping the highways cleared of trash.
"I've already talked with the (state Department of Corrections) commissioner and he likes the garden program. The state does not think it will be a problem to open up the new facility," Miller said.
If the plan works, it also will be a financial benefit for the county. "We can hold 30 to 32 inmates in the facility for females and gross more than $300,000 annually," said Miller. "The county should make some money, and we won't have to hire any extra help," Miller said.
Not only do the state female inmates help out the county financially, they can learn how to do a job that will be helpful when they are released from jail.
"We plan to do a horticulture program next year to produce plants and flowers for a beautification program in the city and county," said Miller.
"They also can cook and do their own laundry," Miller said. "It will be a separate operation but will have plenty of security."
Once the facility is open, Miller said he has local people who want to teach a quilting class for the women inmates.
Miller said a place for women inmates will also free up three cells for arrests.
Additional work will begin after the state gives approval for the project. "I'd like to have the inmates in the new facility by November or December. This will free up 25 beds that we can use for paying inmates and get extra revenue," the jailer said.
"I'm excited about it, I think it will be a good program," he said. "We have a bed crunch in Kentucky. Anytime you get more jail space, it can be positive to help the county. These women inmates have already done a lot for the county."