Preliminary design plans for Vanderburgh Co. jail expansion shown to County Commissioners

Preliminary design plans for Vanderburgh Co. jail expansion shown to County Commissioners

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Vanderburgh County Commissioners were given their first look at changes that could be made to the jail to ease overcrowding. Those plans, which took several weeks to draw up, were presented Tuesday afternoon.

Although there will likely be some changes, Sheriff Wedding says these designs fit the needs of the jail.

Sheriff Wedding tells 14 News that the Vanderburgh County Jail houses a dozen people charged with murder. They’re a high-risk population, but they’re only one of several groups that need separation.

"You may have people who are depressed and need to be watched closely, they need to be housed separately,” Wedding explained.

The jail has 512 beds. Jail staff can squeeze-in another couple dozen. But, studies show the average daily population from April was an overwhelming 822 inmates.

“Presently, we have one housing unit for females and that holds 64 and we’ve had as many as 130 female inmates in custody,” Wedding added.

Preliminary design plans would relieve that congestion and add 750 beds by building three housing pods. Plans call for a better video arraignment area and more space for new programs and inmate education.

“I would like to add case management to all of our inmates,” Wedding explained. “We can talk to them about their crimes and follow them upon their release. Often times people get released from jail and they have no guidance, and they get in more trouble.”

But, perhaps, the biggest question will the estimated price tag. One option to help offset the cost would be to house federal inmates, a reimbursement falling around $45 to $70 a day.

“Judge Young has said they need space for federal prisoners in southwestern Indiana and I would like to take some of those on,” Wedding stated.

“These County Commissioners, we’ve decided that our community cannot be safe without expanding this jail,” Commissioner Jeff Hatfield said. “The reason I am going off on this right now is because we’re not going to have too many more opportunities because this is going to be concluding. And, it’s going to be up to the County Council. And they need to know how we feel, and cannot protect this community adequately without expanding this jail.”

Yearly bookings from 2014 to 2018 jumped by more than 2,100.

Next steps include fine-tuning the plans, come up with staffing and operational costs, as well as total cost projections.

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