An Indianapolis state senator has filed a bill aimed at encouraging regional jails.
Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, a former Indianapolis city-county council member, said the idea of Senate Bill 122 “is not to take away the ability of the sheriff to manage prisoners of a county, but just be another tool in the tool box for county officials to come to some agreement with a mutual aid agreement.”
Regional jails are found in Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia, Sandlin said.
“This is about the taxpayers. We have 92 counties in Indiana and 91 jails,” he said. “We have a number of jails that are in a deteriorated condition, and like Vigo County, many counties are talking about investing in a new facility. This is about, ‘Can you create a synergy to be more economic to do that?’”
Sandlin said Wednesday, the first day of the Indiana General Assembly, that the bill is just in its introduced version and he hopes to get a committee hearing. If nothing else, Sandlin said the bill can “start the discussion” of considering regional jails to reduce costs.
The bill would require the executive of a county to enter into an agreement with one or more local or state entities for the construction, maintenance or operations of a regional jail. The bill requires the regional jail agreement to first be approved by both the county fiscal body and the county sheriff.
The introduced bill does not list projected savings of regional jail projects.
The bill, Sandlin says, would set a framework for counties to “come together to do property acquisitions, construction and leasing and set a frame work in writing that counties would know what their pro-rated share [of expenses] would be,” he said.
Vigo County officials are considering a proposed new jail to eliminate overcrowding, which has been alleged in a 2016 federal lawsuit. Vigo County officials are considering an increase in the local income tax to pay for the project.