By tomorrow morning, 178 inmates will be in the Jefferson County Jail.

Sheriff Dave Thomas updated county council members this evening about the jail’s well-over-capacity population following a busy weekend of arrests on top of the already overcrowded facility.

He has called eight other Indiana counties to see if any would be able to take some of the inmates into their jails. None could. Thomas also said that the security and health risks increase with the jail’s rising population.

“We’re sitting on a powder keg and when it goes, it’s not going to be good,” said Chief Deputy John Wallace.

The county commissioners were all present at last night’s regular county council meeting.

At a meeting in late January, the county council tabled a decision to put $50,000 in good-faith money on a potential property for the new Jefferson County Jail during a joint meeting with the county commissioners.

The commissioners voted unanimously during the meeting to accept the contract. The council voted 4-1 to table the decision after expressing concerns about other potential site locations that they felt needed to be considered and about public input.

Commissioner David Bramer questioned the full council last night about why no public meetings in different settings have been scheduled. The suggestion for those meetings came from council members during the January discussions when the good-faith downpayment on land was voted down.

After a discussion, including questions and comments from council members, Brammer, Wallace, and Commissioner Robert Little, council decided that the Exploratory Jail Committee will set up two public meetings in locations outside the courthouse and regular public meeting places to try to get more input on the jail location and other details.

The time and place for these meetings will be advertised with public meetings in the Madison Courier, reported in The Madison Courier and on and on the county’s website and social media after they are set.

The county is building a new jail after being cited for several areas of noncompliance by the state in 2017. A state inspection report described multiple issues. The 2017 report indicated the jail is overcrowded, lacks beds, toilet and shower facilities and adequate space and is understaffed.

After the inspection, the county commissioners and council were given 180 days to make an  action plan  to correct the areas of noncompliance.

The Exploratory Jail Committee was created in response to the citations and  tasked with researching options such as building a new jail. The committee includes representatives from the commission, council, sheriff’s department and community corrections..
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