BERLIN — Prisoners will no longer be behind metal bars in the four holding cells at the Berlin Police Department now that the cell doors have been converted to plexiglass.
The previous metal bars were considered a hazard ever since a prisoner attempted to hang himself in 2016, Deputy Police Chief Christopher Ciuci said, prompting the department to post an officer outside the cells when occupied. The work was completed late last month.
“We want to keep the public safe, but also anyone in our custody,” Ciuci said.
Since the new doors are impervious and don’t allow airflow, ventilation was installed through the ceiling. Contractors also replaced the beds in the cells to alleviate an issue with inmates crawling underneath and refusing to come out. The New Britain Police Department allowed Berlin to house detainees in its cells during the work.
While the final cost of the project wasn’t available and some minor “punch list” items still need completing, Ciuci said the project remained within the $251,165 budget approved by the Town Council in March 2019.
Even with the installation, Ciuci said officers conduct regular checks on prisoners and dispatchers are able to monitor them through video cameras.
“The holding cells — even though the bars aren’t there — is still a high liability area,” he said.
Police Commission Chairman Paul Eshoo said the work was originally intended to be finished in July. Part of the delay was to allow the contractor, Bismark Construction, to work on Berlin’s project at the same time it did a similar installation in Orange, which allowed the firm to pass along savings to the two towns, he added.