BERLIN – The Berlin Police Department is looking at modifying outdated jail cells, as well as further renovations to update the station.
“We’re trying to make the building as livable as possible for the short term,” said Deputy Police Chief Chris Ciuci.
After a prisoner attempted suicide in a station jail cell in 2016, the department has been focusing on modernizing the holding area to prevent further attempts. Since 2016, the department has spent $48,000 in unbudgeted overtime to have an officer in the holding area when a prisoner is jailed.
The cells currently have bars which is a rare model for many towns that have since modernized their cells. Berlin’s cells have never been modified , aside from plumbing upgrades, since the building was built.
Trumbull and Orange are among the few towns that also still have bars on cells.
Ciuci said the department is planning to team up with the towns to get one company for the project. The estimated price to update cells is $300,000 to $400,000.
Funding could potentially be used from other capital projects. The Town Council is expected to discuss the cell updates at its next meeting.
“They need to be modified,” said Mayor Mark Kaczynski. “It’s incurring costs for overtime and we need to fix that.”
He said there will be further discussions in the near future about moving forward with renovating the police station as a whole.
The facility is in the midst of upgrading its more than 30-year old communication system which was bonded last year for more than $1 million. Ciuci said after the system is upgraded this year and a plan goes forward for the holding area, a new interview room will be the next project.
“We don’t have room right now,” he said.
The department currently uses the conference room for interviews. Ciuci said a room off the lobby, and not actually in the main station area, would be more ideal for safety and privacy purposes.
He said there is no known timeline for renovations to the existing station.
The council previously voted down a new station proposed to be built on Farmington Avenue.
Kaczynski said he wants to look into renovating the current facility and possibly expanding the space into the connecting Board of Education area below Town Hall.
“We need to explore that more,” he said. “I’d like to see an estimate.”