Vanderburgh Co. Closer To Plan For Expanding Jail

Jun 27, 2018

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding explains why the county needs a new jail. Engineering consultants, county council members, and a county commissioners were among the attendees at a June 27 meeting to reach a consensus about expanding the jail.
Credit Isaiah Seibert / WNIN

Vanderburgh County needs a bigger jail, but many county officials do not want to raise taxes for it. 

A study released in April by architecure and engineering firm RQAW recommended an additional 900 beds to cover a growing inmate population, but the county would have to levy a 0.1 percent tax to finance that big an addition under a typical financing plan.

Many elected officials are against a tax increase. They believe they can work out a deal to add 600 beds, which would meet the jail’s current needs, without raising taxes. County Commssioner Cheryl Musgrave is among them.

“It looks like we might be able to get the number of beds without the increase," she said, "without any increase whatsoever.”

The jail has 512 beds, which is nearly 500 short of holding the county's current inmate population. A jail should have an occupancy rate of 80 percent to allow for proper classification, like separating men and women and violent offenders from the general population.

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding said the inmate population has surged in the past 24 months, and the county now holds around 200 inmates in neighboring counties' jails. 

Some officials hoped the county could decrease its inmate population by lowering bond amounts and expediting court proceedings, but superior court judge Leslie Shively said the courts run as quickly as possible given the size of their staffs, and that most who are given the opportunity to post bond can afford to do so.

The group of county officials will reconvene July 23 to discuss further plans. They hope to have better data about jail operating costs and more information about different financing options