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Our Opinion: Sleepovers signal opening of county jail

In a reversal of prisoners plotting to escape, Cole County officials are hoping non-offenders will take advantage of their offer to spend time behind bars.

The time is one night — from 5:30 p.m.-8 a.m. either Friday or Saturday — and the venue is the new Cole County Jail at the corner of East High and Adams streets.

The bed and breakfast, behind bars, is a fundraiser being held in connection with the jail’s grand opening. The $30 cost of an overnight stay includes a T-shirt, booking photo and dinner, in addition to breakfast.

After expenses, proceeds will go to the sheriff’s office needs and the county’s Pacesetters commitment to the United Way of Central Missouri campaign.

The fundraiser is being held in connection with the grand opening at 10 a.m. Friday, followed by an open house and tours from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

The opening marks the culmination of nearly four years of planning and construction since county voters approved a law enforcement sales tax in August 2007.

The project was not without pitfalls, including cost overruns and problems with concrete work and drainage.

The finished facility, at a cost of $28 million, is capable of housing 180 prisoners in its 90, two-man cells. Each cells measures 6.5 by 12 feet.

In addition to the jail, the facility also will house the sheriff’s department, accessible through the East High Street entrance.

The popularity of tours of the vacant Missouri State Penitentiary has demonstrated lockup has an allure — for visitors.

Similar curiosity may prompt people to surrender for a sleepover in the slammer.

When the festivities end and the jail becomes operational, however, the facility will begin serving its role as a voter-approved addition to public safety.

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