Kentucky jail not really horsing around
October 8, 1999
From Correspondent Brian Cabell
LEXINGTON, Kentucky (CNN) -- Drivers passing through the Lexington area might notice a new building being constructed in the enchanting countryside that is home to some of the finest horse farms and thoroughbreds in the world.
But despite the gently sloping hill, the retaining pond and the large, elegant looking barn -- no horses are expected to live here, only prisoners of the new county jail.
"We didn't want our neighbors to feel that this was an offensive look to the area, so we tried to make it blend in," Ray Sabbatine, director of detention services at the Fayette County Jail, said.
If the architect's rendering of the jail approximates the actual structure, it will blend in from the front view.
The cost of the horse farm-looking jail is about $71 million. Officials said that's comparable to a conventional facility of the same size. There will be nothing fancy about the new facility except for the outward appearance.
The cellblocks, designed to hold as many as 1,200 inmates awaiting trial or serving short sentences, look like any modern jail -- Spartan and functional. But it's the outside, the facade, that's drawn attention, especially from architects.
"To me, an architecture that blends, not hides, but blends with the landscape and has a contextual relationship, I think that's where the strength of this facility is," said University of Kentucky architecture professor Greg Luhan.
Hold your horses, says fellow professor and architect Keith Plymale, who calls the jail's appearance inappropriate:
"Our society, our priorities, our civil functions should be visible so that we can see who we are by the decisions we make in the legal system, and the jail's a big part of that," Plymale said.
In other words, he believes the jail to be a fake, a fraud.
Of course, such discussions matter little to the county inmates currently housed at the old, downtown jail. When they move next year, they'll be inside, in windowless cells, unable to enjoy the view of the graceful horses running around the pastures just down the road.
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