The St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office announced that it is near completion of the estimated $250,000 in renovations to its jail prisoner entry sally port, booking area and administration building.

As part of the renovations, improvements were made to the booking area, and fingerprinting and processing were moved to a room formerly housing communications. Improvements also were made to the visitation area.

The communications unit was moved to the old chief deputy’s office, which was enlarged to accommodate more than one dispatcher in case a 911 center is ever moved to the parish. The 911 center in Amite manages the parish’s 911 calls.

A secured entryway, or sally port, is the last of the renovations and will be added for the safety of prisoners and the public, Sheriff Nat Williams said.

The new enclosures, Williams said, will feature remote-control operation so inmates can be loaded and unloaded behind the gated area. Additional security measures will be added, including the installation of new security cameras.

With the help of local state legislators, Williams obtained the funding necessary to help with the upgrades to bring them into compliance with accessibility standards under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Chief Criminal Deputy Chester Pritchett said.

“The funding also helped to improve public safety and intra-office communication, while also meeting physical standards guidelines for prisoner transport,” Pritchett said.

The project is funded through two 2014 Louisiana Legislature capital outlay appropriations of $190,000 and $50,000. The project is overseen by the Louisiana Division of Facility Planning and Control, Williams said.

The jail houses approximately 56 inmates, including prisoners from the Department of Corrections.

The intake and processing of inmates is done in the building on the east side of the jail, which was built during the early 1980s and was the main site for the sheriff’s administrative offices.

Since then, Williams has moved the administration offices, detectives and civil, criminal and juvenile units away from the courthouse square and into the old Health Unit building.

“I pushed for years for new or improved jail facilities, and I am happy to see it happening,” Williams said.