Jail renovations to save county money
The Harrison County jail could soon hold 40 more inmates, which the sheriff says will save the county more than $400,000 a year. To make this happen, the jail needs $62,165 to increase capacity in jail cells.
Sheriff Nick Smith told the Harrison County Council during its meeting Monday night the money would increase capacity from 173 inmates to 213 by removing tables that are bolted to the floor. It increases how many people can be in a cell from 16 to 24. Law requires so much square footage per inmate, and objects that take up areas cannot count toward the total available area, according to Smith.
Bunk beds will be increased from double to triple racks, thus allowing more inmates to sleep in each cell, the sheriff said, and since inmates are not allowed to eat meals on their beds, portable tables will need to be brought in once the permanent tables are removed.
“This is going to increase our space,” Smith said. “It provides better living for the residents that are there.”
The new cell design is already in place in some cells, and the funds will complete the work to the rest of the rooms.
Due to overcrowding, the county sends inmates to Washington County, at a cost of about $459,000 a year, according to Smith.
“We, along with all other (county jails) in the state of Indiana, became overcrowded,” Smith said.
According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, 77% of Indiana county jails are experiencing overcrowding.
Smith said it could cost more than $15 million to simply expand the jail to increase space. Instead of adding on to the justice center, adding these beds keep more inmates in Harrison County where they can go through a recidivism program to keep inmates from returning to jail.
The council could approve the funding at its next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 23, at the government center in Corydon.
Employees with the sheriff’s office could have the old tables removed and new beds installed soon after the funding is in place.
“We have the rest of the year that we won’t be sending any inmates to Washington County,” Smith said.
The next council meeting is also when councillors could support funding $190,000 to make repairs to a ball field at South Harrison Park near Elizabeth.
According to Larry Shickles, superintendent of the Harrison County Park Dept., after the installation of a parking lot, one field sits lower than the parking lot. The field already had poor drainage and has gotten worse with water runoff from the parking lot, he said.
When the parking lot was put in place, lights were taken down with the promise of them getting put back up. That hasn’t happened, but $116,000 of the funding would have new ones installed.
To improve drainage and get the field to be playable again costs $37,100. This cost is lower due to the parks department having access to excess dirt from the project at Morvin’s Landing near Mauckport and work on the Lanesville connector road project.
The final $36,900 would be used for other projects at the park, including work on the tollhouse.
In other county business, the five council members present (Jennie Capelle and Holli Castetter were absent) agreed to send a letter, signed by all county council members, to state officials asking them to send back a relinquishment agreement of a portion of state highways 11, 111 and 337, prior to any state approval, to allow the council to review the fiscal impact of the agreement, made between the Harrison County Board of Commissioners and the Indiana Dept. of Transportation.
Council president Donnie Hussung told the audience that the action taken last month by the commissioners was legal. While it may not have been the best way for everyone involved, nothing done was illegal, he said.