DADE CITY — The long-awaited expansion of the Pasco County jail is expected to begin in the coming weeks as the county prepares to take charge of Sheriff Chris Nocco’s detention center.
Delays in construction, overcrowding, the rising costs of running it, including fees paid to other jurisdictions for housing overcrowded inmates, are among the reasons Nocco cited when he announced earlier this year that he was out of the prison business want to get off.
Earlier this month, the County Commission reaffirmed its selection of Moss & Associates LLC as site supervisors to oversee work with an estimated completion time of summer 2025. In spring 2020, the company was brought on board to handle parts prior to construction of the job.
The total cost of the project, including design, permitting and construction, is nearly $208 million.
The 386,477-square-foot prison expansion at the Central Pasco prison complex will include space for additional inmates, medical, mental health and administrative segregation beds. New support areas will also be added, including a new secure entry point, reception and release areas, a new kitchen, expanded washrooms, and expanded security response and personnel support areas. The entire complex’s fire detection and security systems will also be fully upgraded.
The project includes a public visitor building. It will allow families to visit inmates via video conference and conduct other business without entering the prison’s secure area. The Visitor Building is on the corner of Asbel Road and US 41.
Additional parking lots are planned, along with a new security road around the prison and new technological infrastructure for the prison and any future buildings on the site.
In March, Nocco announced his plan to turn the prison over to Pasco County. He appeared before the commission in December to complain that while he was happy running the prison, financial difficulties persisted there.
Having more inmates than space has been a problem for some time, and the makeshift structure being built at the detention center has exceeded its expected lifespan by years. While the prison extension was intended to add 1,000 inmate places, rising costs meant it was reduced to just 540. That means the prison complex will still be congested when the annex opens.
Meanwhile, the county continues to aggressively approve new developments, which will add to the future burden. Nocco said he had to make the difficult decision to end his leadership of the prison.
Since then, county officials have conducted a number of activities to prepare for the new responsibilities, including approving the hiring of a company for county court clerk and comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles. This allows their employees to take stock of the assets Pasco County will receive and help manage the transition.
Last month, county commissioners voted to form a new Pasco County Correctional Agency that will operate the prison after October 1, when the transition is expected to be complete. At that meeting, they also temporarily appointed Stacey Jenkins as chief enforcement officer for the prison. They are expected to formalize that decision this week.
Jenkins, who currently serves as the commandant of the Court Services Bureau for Nocco, has been with the sheriff’s office since 1991, starting as a custody assistant and ending with her current job, according to the sheriff’s website. She has overseen numerous aspects of the prison throughout her career and holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo University with a concentration in law.
The district is also in the process of hiring an assistant district administrator for a newly formed public safety department that will include firefighting and corrections, district spokeswoman Sarah Andeara said.
Though the change in oversight was challenging, she said staff on both sides of the change have worked well together and are “focused on the same outcome of a seamless transition and as little disruption as possible for prison team members.”
Delays in construction and overcrowding were reasons Sheriff Chris Nocco wanted out of the prison business