Only a few years ago, all the locks at the McCracken County Regional Jail were controlled by air.
To open the doors, compressors forced air through pipes installed throughout the walls in the facility.
But in 2017, jail personnel identified the locks as badly in need of repair, with the company that initially produced the locks no longer in business.
Jailer David Knight said Tuesday that the state of the locks was a significant security risk. Inmates, he said, "could have gotten out of their cells if these (repairs) had not been done. There could have been individuals locked in cells that couldn't get out."
In the event of compressor failure, each door would have to be opened manually with a key, and there was no electrical backup for the compressors. The tumblers also were worn down, some near the point of failure.
Former Jailer Tonya Ray identified the need to upgrade the locks when she took over for her predecessor Bill Adams in early 2017.
Tuesday night, the McCracken County Fiscal Court approved the final phase of the jail's lock replacement program.
Knight said all of the new locks will be controlled electrically, rather than pneumatically.
During the first phase of the project, the jail upgraded the locks on its sliding doors, while the second phase addressed the exterior locks that secured the facility.
The final stage, approved Tuesday, awarded $340,000 to Cornerstone Detention Products to fix the locks on the interior doors.
Knight characterized the repairs as "just maintenance on a 30-year-old building," and estimated the total cost at a little over $1 million.
Knight said he expected significant savings in the coming years.
"Until we get next year's (electricity bill), we won't know," he said.