As a result of a 1976 suit brought by two Alexandria Jail inmates, who claimed that conditions there violated their constitutional rights, U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. orders improvements made to the facility, some sections of which were built in 1825. He also sets the facility's capacity at 114 prisoners. Since then, it has housed as many as 180 inmates. The addition of trailers has increased the number of beds to about 150.
*August 1978: Bryan approves contract for the improvements. Sheriff Michael Norris recommends that the city build a new jail instead of renovating the existing one, but the City Council decides to continue with plans.
*January 1979: A Sheriff's Department study is released that finds the jail is a bleak, roach-infested "warehouse" of persons whose medical, psychological and rehabilitation needs are virtually ignored. Most of the 2,200 inmates housed in the jail in 1978 had not been convicted of the crimes they were charged with, yet the average stay was 42 days, said Norris.
*March 1979: The federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration refuses to turn over $250,000 to the city until the city comes up with a plan for the money "other than using it to enhance the life expectancy of the substandard jail," according to Norris.
*January 1980: City Council considers four proposals to deal with the dilapidated jail and cramped police headquarters. Consultants recommend the most expensive -- $17 million -- alternative: finding a six-acre site in the city and building new jail and police facilities.
*March 1980: Blue-ribbon committee selects a site in the nonresidential Cameron Valley section of the city for the proposed jail and police headquarters.
*June 1980: City Council approves 6 to 1 the selection of the site on the southern rim of the city. Expected occupancy: 1983.
*February 1982: Investigators from the state Department of Corrections find that the jail is in serious violation of state codes, specifically, that it is too dirty, maintains inadequate records and has insufficient inmate grievance procedures. A sheriff's deputy attributes these problems to the building and to overcrowding.
*February 1983: U.S. District Court declares that the city must build a new jail by the end of 1986, and that, meanwhile, the old facility must be maintained and health services and fire safety improved.
*April 1983: The city's Planning Commission unveils plans for a $19 million public safety center designed to replace the jail and consolidate the offices of the police department, sheriff and magistrates.
*June 1984: Ground is broken for the $24.5 million Public Safety Complex, $16 million of that cost going for the jail.
*January 1987: New jail expected to accept prisoners.