County selects company for justice system study

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Another step has been taken in the ongoing work to determine the range and cost of improvements to the county’s security center.

The Dubois County Commissioners voted 2 to 1 Monday to hire RQAW Corporation of Fishers to conduct the feasibility study. Commissioner Chad Blessinger voted no, explaining that his first choice was Elevatus Architecture of Fort Wayne, though RQAW was his second choice.

RQAW, Elevatus and a third company were interviewed in October, having been selected from eight companies submitting proposals for the job. Along with conducting interviews, the commissioners were also considering whether or not a consultant should be brought in at the same time to help with the direction of the study as well as with the future architectural design and construction phases. They decided to hold off on the consultant, feeling that one was not needed for the feasibility study.

“In the future, there could be value in using a jail consultant for some guidance and leadership,” Blessinger said.

Commissioner Elmer Brames agreed. “We should leave open the possibility of having a consultant, possibly when we start the design phase.”

The commissioners have been researching firms for the feasibility study since a committee studying the county’s criminal system presented to them in August suggestions for improving the system.

The committee determined that the county needs a security center that can house 250 to 300 inmates. The center should have a centralized tower occupied by officers and surrounded by pods in which inmates reside. Those pods should be segregated to house inmates by gender, level of offense and whether or not inmates are getting substance abuse or behavioral treatment.

The committee also determined that the county’s community corrections program should be expanded to accommodate more qualifying offenders, and programming and treatment services should also be expanded at both facilities — the jail and community corrections. The county should determine if it is financially beneficial to construct a judicial center at this time, and consider using the current security center for other purposes, the committee determined.

The Indiana Department of Correction is mandating that the county address overcrowding in the jail. An assessment done by the National Institute of Corrections found that several areas of the system could be improved, including having more programs to treat inmates’ substance abuse or mental and emotional problems and increasing the security center’s staff.

A state law that went into effect this year requires a feasibility study be done before any new construction or remodeling can be done to a facility. The study must consider the needs of a facility, including size, location, staff and alternatives to incarceration. The county plans to add other topics to the study, such as community corrections needs and options for therapy programs. The study could also include a look at the county’s entire justice system, including other departments like probation and the courts.

RQAW’s cost to do the study will be no more than $10,000 and Elevatus’ cost was less than $70,000, which Blessinger said was negotiable. The companies also submitted their cost should they be selected for the next phase, which includes architectural design. Elevatus’ cost would be 5 to 6 percent of the total construction cost, while RQAW’s cost would be 6 to 7 percent.

Blessinger said he “finds it hard that to believe that [RQAW] can do a robust study like we are looking for, for $9,000 to $10,000,” he said Monday. Both Brames and Commissioners President Nick Hostetter said they had confidence the company would.

“RQAW will lose money on the study in hopes of getting the design contract,” Brames said. “So I am confident they will do a quality study.”




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com