Jail study to consider options nearly complete

The current Dubois County Security Center


The feasibility study on options for expanding the Dubois County Security Center and addressing needs of the justice system is almost complete.

Members of the study’s committee plan to have a public hearing for the study in early June.

On Thursday, the members met with architectural firm RQAW to review the information. They also discussed concerns some committee members had that not all possible options were thoroughly researched.

“We said we were going to make sure no stone is unturned, and I don’t believe we’re doing that,” Sheriff Tom Kleinhelter said. “It feels like we’ve settled on two options and that’s it.”

He said he emailed RQAW some different options to be considered, such as building new on a new site and considering the former Kmart building on the south side or Fifth Street Elementary, which will become empty when construction of the new Jasper Elementary School is complete. He has only been told that those options are too expensive, but he doesn’t know why.

“Maybe they should be dismissed,” he said. “But why are they? And moving forward, I don’t think we can say, ‘Yeah we checked on this.’”

Sanjay Patel, the RQAW architect who is facilitating the county’s study, apologized for sounding dismissive of the other options in his correspondence. He said the other options were researched, and he will email that information to committee members. That information can also be included in the study, if the committee desires, he said.

The study is required by state law to be done before any new construction or remodeling can be done to a jail facility. In 2017, the Indiana Department of Correction mandated that Dubois County address overcrowding issues at the security center.

The study currently includes two options.

One option is to expand on property near the current security center. That includes remodeling the current facility; adding a building that will increase the number of beds at the jail pod to between 244 and 270 beds; expanding the community corrections facility; adding surface parking; and adding a building that would house the courts and a connector between the courts facility and jail. That option, which requires the purchase of land, is estimated to cost $43.1 million.

The other option in the study is to use the Old National site at Sixth and Mill streets. That would include adding a building on the east side of the site for the jail beds and a parking garage on the west side; the Old National building would also be renovated and used for administrative offices, and the current community corrections facility would still be expanded. That option, which also requires land acquisition, is estimated to cost $50.8 million.

Committee member Nick Hostetter, who is a county commissioner, said a third option of building a completely new facility should be included in the study.

“We don’t have a place in mind,” he said. “But I think that option should be presented, too.”

Patel said that option will be added.

Committee members concluded that the study is mostly focused on having a bigger jail facility only. Many thought the group was also going to look into the expansion of treatment programs for inmates.

“That was my understanding, because I was interested in knowing who is in our jail,” said committee member Jenny Lampert, Dubois County’s chief probation officer. “It might be 50 people that have drug and alcohol abuse issues that need to be addressed, and can be addressed in a different way than just being housed in a new jail. That’s what I thought we were doing with this study, as part of it. That was one of the things we wanted to look at.”

Although that was the original idea, several committee members said they now believe that issue needs to studied separately, with the help of professionals who can analyze treatment needs and options.

“At the very beginning, I certainly was very much in favor of programming, doing things to reduce recidivism. And I saw that as part of the building project at the beginning,” said Jerry Hunefeld, president of the Dubois County Council. “Now, as we’re getting into it and hearing all these other ideas, I’ve come to the conclusion that we are talking about two different ideas; we’re talking about the physical structure, and then we are talking about the programming part. I don’t think this committee can handle the programming part. My thinking is that we proceed with the physical part, and make sure we have more than what we need for classroom (and treatment) space.”

In the next couple of weeks, RQAW plans to add information to finalize the study and finalize the abbreviated version of the study that will presented to the public at a hearing in early June.

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