BRIDGETON - Cumberland County's aging jail could undergo some upgrades to improve the way its corrections officers administer the Broad Street facility.

The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Tuesday awarded a $30,000 contract to the Vineland firm of J.W. Pederson to recommend improvements to the jail's command and control structure.

The company will do an engineering and architectural study to determine what needs to be done to, among other things, improve deployment of corrections officers inside the jail, said Cumberland County Freeholder Joseph Derella, whose duties include overseeing the facility. He said he could not provide specifics about the plan for security reasons.

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The upgrades were recommended in a jail study that was performed last year, Derella said.

The study included numerous other recommendations, including hiring more corrections officers, something that will actually save the county money by reducing overtime, Derella said. The county budget allows for the hiring of 16 new corrections officers.

The upgrades are also related in part to the age of the jail. Sections of the facility were built in 1948.

Given its age, Derella said the jail is "surprisingly in better shape than you would anticipate."

"What we are trying to do is create a better atmosphere for the officers who are there," Derella said.

Derella said the planned upgrades are not related to the county's acceptance of Gloucester County prisoners into the jail in Bridgeton.

Gloucester County will pay Cumberland County $100 a day per inmate lodged in the facility. The agreement between the two counties states that Cumberland County will house between 100 and 340 of Gloucester County's prisoners per day. Cumberland County officials said they anticipate at least $3 million annually from the agreement. Cumberland County - along with Salem, Burlington and Essex counties - agreed to house prisoners from the Gloucester County jail that is scheduled to close next month.

The first batch of Gloucester County inmates arrived at the Cumberland County jail this past weekend. The 73 inmates were processed late Saturday and early Sunday and then assigned to their appropriate units within the jail.

Derella said jail officials picked those days and times because it caused the least disruption to jail activities.

Derella said the jail here should have 83 prisoners from Gloucester County as of Thursday, with the count likely to increase to about 120 by the end of the month.

Cumberland County's jail can hold 550 prisoners. Derella said jail officials are monitoring the prisoner population to make sure the count does not exceed 550.

The jail deal involving the five counties is proceeding even though it is being challenged in a Superior Court lawsuit by the state Office of the Public Defender.

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