EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - New plans are made to expand the Vanderburgh County Jail.
Consultants laid out five options Wednesday afternoon to the Vanderburgh County Council which range from essentially leaving the jail as-is to an $89-million-dollar investment. It all comes down to cost and how to pay for it.
The bottom line remains the same. There are way more inmates than there are places to put them. But, it’s not only about space. Some people are pushing for more separation among inmates, especially from the most violent offenders.
This year the average daily population for Vanderburgh County jail inmates is 817. This number is up from 513 in 2014 which is a 59% increase over five years.
“If we just built 1000 beds, that would be 500 in addition to 550 we already have,” Sheriff Dave Wedding calculated. “We would be treading on thin ice.”
The jail opened in early 2006 and was built to hold barely more than 500 inmates. And with daily populations rising in recent years, they’re turning to other counties to house roughly 200 inmates which costs of about $3 million a year.
“We’ll send a violent felon to another community and they’ll send them back and say we don’t want your violent offender,” Wedding told the council. “It’s a chess game for us trying to figure out where we’re going to ship these people.”
Some say the state is to blame for some of the overcrowding.
“$21 a day now for state held prisoners,” Council member Mike Goebel stated. “176 we didn’t have four years ago. They should be in the state prisons or let them build a facility for us to hold them and pay for them.”
Five possible solutions were presented to council. The consultants recommended the fifth option.
$89 million dollars would cover the cost for two new dorm pods, high security pod, juvenile pod, and expanded medical space and adds 764 beds.
"It’s the best solution to properly classify and separate inmates on day one,” Structurepoint’s Rick Conner explained.
With this option, the jail could house more than 200 federal inmates and no inmates are projected to be housed out of county.
"I would’ve never designed the jail the way it’s designed,” Sheriff Wedding added.
But this option does require a new revenue source. 21 counties have adopted a local income correctional facility tax. Of the 21, 19 have adopted the maximum rate of .2 percent.
“Unfortunately, it’s one of these things, nobody, no elected official, especially locally wants to do anything that will increase any tax of any form,” Council President Joe Kiefer said. “Unfortunately, the problem is here. The need is here.”
Council President Joe Kiefer tells 14 News he would like to a have public hearings ahead of any vote on a possible tax increase.
No dates are set yet.