One of the first things visitors see whenever they enter the Ellis County Jail is an old cell, which has been in the jail lobby as far back as 1929. It may not be there for much longer.
The old jail cell currently sits in the lobby of the Wayne McCollum Detention Center, located at 300 South Jackson Street — complete with its own cot, toilet and bars. Historical Commission chairman Sylvia Smith said the jail cell was in the jail’s basement parking garage before it was moved into the lobby.
“They had to remove a wall to get this thing in there,” Smith remarked.
Last week, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office submitted a request to the commissioners’ court notifying them of their intention to remove the old jail cell out of the lobby to allow for more seating. According to the commissioners’ court agenda, 18 seats are available in the current spacing with the old jail cell included. An additional 22 seats could be provided, pending the jail cell’s removal.
“The sheriff needs that physical space,” Precinct 2 commissioner Lane Grayson said. “Because of the number of visitors that come in and out of there, we desperately need that space.”
Smith said the historical commission is looking to preserve the jail cell for its historical value. The commissioners’ court has requested that they find a place to relocate the old jail cell. But at the current moment, the commission does not have any ideas.
Then there’s the issue of transporting the cell itself. Smith stated that since the wall to the cell had to get removed to get it in there, the county would either have to remove the wall again or transport the cell out of there piece-by-piece.
“How they’re going to get it out unless they cut it up is beyond me,” Smith stated. “We would like to preserve it. We need to find a place to put it – which is going to be very difficult.”
One option the commission is considering is leaving the jail cell in the lobby, but opening it for public use. Smith remarked that it might be a fun way to interact with a piece of Ellis County history, especially for younger residents.
“We think they ought to just open the door and let people sit in there,” Smith chuckled. “You could give them a little idea of what it’s going to be like if you’re not good.”
But whatever the commission decides, Grayson said the commissioners’ court would need a proposal relatively soon.
“I don’t want to see it go away,” Grayson stated. “I think it’s a valuable piece. But right now where it’s physically located, it’s given the Sheriff’s office a challenge to do the day-to-day operations. We obviously want to mitigate that.”
Grayson stated that the issue would be brought before the court sometime next month.