By Mike Fletcher
Tribune staff writer
Work on creating additional cells at the Howard County jail is progressing smoothly and should be done in the next few weeks, Sheriff Steve Rogers said.
By adding bed space in the existing facility, any needed major expansion will be pushed back for four to five years, the sheriff said.
The jail, which was constructed in 1993, was built to house 324 inmates. As of Wednesday, the jail had 318 inmates including 49 females.
Work started in September to convert an existing indoor recreation area into a dormitory with 36 additional beds to house minimum security male inmates who are incarcerated for fewer than 30 days. Inmates are expected to be moved into the new area after the jail’s annual inspection May 16, the sheriff said.
The existing cells the males were housed in will now be used to house female inmates. There has been a significant increase in the female jail population in recent years.
Rogers said the jail was originally built to house 34 women and the highest ever female population at the facility was 84.
Rogers said female prisoners are being housed in other portions of the jail.
“That will allow us to move a segment of the male inmate population and convert a large male pod to a female pod,” Rogers said.
The new renovation also will ease the cost of housing female inmates in the Miami County jail, which has extra space. Howard County pays $35 a day per inmate to keep women at the Miami County facility.
Along with converting the rec room to a cell block, workers remodeled a closet and extended a wall to create restrooms and showers next to the dormitory-style housing.
“There will be indirect supervision of the inmates meaning guards will monitor inmates from outside the cell,” Rogers said of the new cell block.
The remodeling reduced the number of indoor recreational areas to one. There are three outdoor recreational areas.
“It means scheduling changes to make sure everyone gets the required recreational time,” Rogers said.
The second project is all new security electronics upgrades, including a new control center, monitoring cameras and locks on the cells.
Rogers said it was becoming difficult to get parts for the original control panels and the new control room was designed to add control panels if the jail is ever expanded.
The total project cost is $725,000 with $30,000 set aside for contingency costs.
The Howard County Council approved a request for $375,000 from the Cumulative Capital Fund to pay for 52 percent of the project.
The county has budgeted $300,000 for the communications upgrade, and $50,000 will come from the sheriff’s information technology budget.
Mike Fletcher, Tribune crime reporter may be reached at 765-454-8565, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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