On July 7, 1824, the County Commissioners advertised for proposals for erecting a stone jail, the dimensions of which were to be 35 x 50 feet, two stories high, with walls two and one-half feet in thickness. The lower floor was to have four rooms and the upper six, with the cost estimated at $2,400, but its final cost proved to be $2,600. On October 1, 1827, a stone wall enclosing the jail yard was contructed at a cost of $950. This original jail, with slight alterations and improvements, served the County for the remainder of the Century.
On April 4, 1902, bids were received for the erection of a new brick jail, in which was also to be the residence of the sheriff. The contract was for $26,000, but changes in the plans increased its cost to over $30,000.
The two tier, twelve cell prison was constructed at West McClure Street and occupied on January 1, 1903. It remained virtually unchanged until the mid 1970's when an electrical locking system was installed on the six cell doors of the lower tier and the two security doors entering the cell block. A closed circuit television monitoring system was also installed.
Prisoner population rarely exceeded six until the mid 1970's. The 1980's brought an influx of prisoners and by 1988 the prison was filled to capacity. Early in 1989 an exercise room was converted to hold an additional four prisoners. This alleviated the over population problem only temporarily. By the end of 1989 the population had reached a total of 55. The majority of the overflow was being housed in Juniata and other surrounding Counties. Prior to this, the County Commissioners had realized the necessity for a larger, more secure facility and secured 14.6 acres of ground at the south end of New Bloomfield Borough.
Ground breaking ceremonies were held July 1989. The cost was estimated at 3.4 million. However, various changes were required and the final cost is estimated at approximately 3.7 million.
Population at the old jail averaged around 45-50 inmates. The New County Prison will house approximately 125 at full capacity. There are 52 individual cells with 48 having the capability of double bunking. Also, there is a large housing unit which will be available for work-release and trustee inmates. With this unit fully occupied, it will bring the population to 125.
This will allow the prison to be certiified as a minimum/maximum institution. Plans are to begin accepting inmates at the new facility on October 22, 1990.