Justice system options, costs 'a work in progress'


Very rough construction estimates for expanding the Dubois County Security Center range from $15 to $20 million. And expanding Dubois County Community Corrections is estimated to cost between $1.7 and $2 million.

The numbers are very preliminary, RQAW architect Sanjay Patel told the justice center study committee Thursday.

“This information is preliminary, when we’re talking about staffing and cost, and operational costs,” he said. “It’s still a work in progress. But I wanted to get you up to speed as to where we are and what we’ve been thinking of in terms of cost.”

The group is researching the cost to expand the security center, which has on overcrowding problem. County officials started looking into the matter after receiving a notice about the problem from the Indiana Department of Correction in 2017.

A state law that went into effect in 2018 requires a feasibility study be done before any new construction or remodeling can be done to a jail facility. The study must consider the needs of a facility, including size, location, staff and alternatives to incarceration. RQAW of Fishers was hired in December to conduct the study.

So far, RQAW has looked at various statistics from the security center and other county departments, as well as space needs for each. Patel and RQAW architectural intern Cole Walters have sent some of that information to committee members. At Thursday’s meeting, Walters presented some of the preliminary conclusions from that study.

Last year, 1,140 people were admitted into the security center. The average daily population at the center was 111 inmates and the average length of stay for an inmate was about 37 days.

The number of males admitted has fluctuated over the years, but female admissions has steadily increased, Walters noted. Dubois Superior Judge Mark McConnell, a member of the committee, said he has seen an increase in the female population, mainly because the number of females being charged and convicted of drug charges has increased.

RQAW projects that by 2038, admissions will be about 1,060 people, but the average length of stay will increase to about 73 days. That will make the average daily population at the jail increase to about 212 people.

So the security center needs to be big enough to increase its capacity to between 250 and 300 beds, the architects determined.

To do that, RQAW presented two ideas. The first is to add a building southeast of the current security center and make that into a two-story jail pod, which would hold the 250 to 300 beds. The current facility could be renovated and used for classroom space, treatment facilities and other administrative needs. Space for programming would be in the jail pod as well, Patel said. The rough estimate for this idea is between $17 and $20 million.

Another option is to purchase the Old National Bank property at Mill and Sixth streets and turn that into a justice center. Or, Patel said, the non-court departments could move to the building and the justice departments could utilize the Dubois County Courthouse. A three-story jail pod could be added on the property just east of the building, with the first level being used for administrative and support services and the other levels housing the inmate beds. The rough estimate for this option would be $15 to $16 million, which does not include land acquisition costs.

This option limits the possibility of future expansion, Walters said. Also, this space does have neighboring houses and would have to get special zoning from the City of Jasper, he added.

“So, it’s got its challenges,” Patel said.

RQAW also presented an idea of adding a justice center south of the current security and community corrections centers, in which justice departments like the courts could be housed. Both Patel and Walters noted that space is limited in the courthouse. And, Patel said, having the justice departments near the security and community corrections centers would help with the issue of transporting inmates to court hearings. The cost of this option would be $7.8 to $9 million, but that does not include the cost to purchase the land.

RQAW also said that the community corrections facility could be expanded to the south to add more beds for participants and administrative space for the staff. That was estimated to cost between $1.8 and $2 million.

None of the estimates include soft costs, like engineering, legal and finance work; that typically equates to about 30 percent of the overall construction costs.

As far as jail staff, RQAW estimated that an additional eight or nine jail officers would be needed for a bigger facility. “You’re adding about 37,000 square feet to the jail and having about 300 inmates,” Walters said. “There will be a lot more movement of inmates.” The additional staff will add about $373,000 in salaries.

Numbers will continue to be worked on and committee members will consider the ideas to determine what parts of the options they like and what parts they don’t think would work for the county’s needs. Another meeting will be set and advertised to update this information, Patel said.

Once completed, RQAW’s study will recommend what the county needs for its justice system over the next 20 years, and give the committee a recommendation of the location, size and cost for a facility or facilities to address that need.

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