By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
Work is progressing on two separate projects at the jail, which was constructed in 1993. The work, which started in September, is expected to be completed by March.
Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said adding bed space in the existing Howard County jail facility will push back any needed major expansion for four to five years.
One project is to convert an existing indoor recreation area into a dormitory with 36 beds to house minimum security inmates who are incarcerated for less than 30 days.
The existing cells will be used
to house female inmates, which has experienced a significant increase in recent years.
Rogers said the jail was originally built to house 34 women and the highest female population at the facility was 84. There were 46 women in the jail Friday.
Lt. Robin Byers said the county began double-bunking, which raised the available bed space for female inmates, but it was still necessary to transport some to Miami County, at a cost of $35 per day per inmate.
Rogers said female prisoners were being housed in other portions of the jail.
If the Indiana General Assembly changes the sentencing guidelines for the state it would require counties to house prisoners convicted of a Class D felony.
Rogers said that would increase the daily population of the jail by more than 50 inmates.
“I hope this will buy us four or five years,” he said. “There had been talk about using the old jail, but that would have required additional staffing and transporting meals to the facility. With this remodeling, all the bricks and mortar are at this facility.”
Byers said the remodeling included remodeling a closet and moving a wall to create restrooms and showers next to the dormitory style housing.
“This will require minimal manpower,” she said. “There will be in-direct supervision of the inmates.”
The remodeling is reducing the number of indoor recreational areas to one to go along with 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.
Byers said additional security cameras and new voice intercoms are being included in the remodeling work.
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.