AUBURN — DeKalb County should build a new jail at a site in an industrial or rural area near Auburn.

That’s the first recommendation from a two-year study of the county’s jail needs. Consultant Rod Miller of Pennsylvania released a first draft of the committee’s report this week.

The county’s 32-year-old jail in downtown Auburn is undersized and suffers from deficiencies that have led to a cap of 80 inmates, the report says.

The report calls for a new jail to have 223 beds — 178 for men and 51 for women.

The committee finds no future use for the existing jail and recommends demolishing it after a new jail opens.

The new jail site should be 20 acres, with room for a community corrections center, housing for work-release inmates and possibly other criminal justice functions, the report prescribes.

The report estimates a price of $22.6 million for the jail alone and $27.3 million for a jail with community corrections and work-release space.

DeKalb County commissioners reviewed eight possible sites for a new jail at their meeting Monday morning, but did not reach a conclusion.

A committee of county government leaders and law enforcement officials met 14 times over a two-year period to study the existing jail’s condition and possible solutions. Miller, president of the nonprofit CRS Inc. consulting in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, led the discussions and drafted the committee’s report.

Describing the existing jail, Miller wrote, “The effects of the chronic overcrowding, combined with building design deficiencies and conditions, create liability, security and safety concerns for the sheriff’s office and the county.”

He added, “The facility has structural issues (settling, leakage) and is aging. The design does not facilitate effective supervision.”

“This report is the result of a great deal of time and energy spent on behalf of Rod Miller, our jail consultant, and the jail committee,” said DeKalb County Sheriff Don Lauer. “I believe this report comes to logical conclusions. I just hope we consider its conclusions before proceeding.”

Lauer said after reading the report, he was confused by Monday’s comment from a county commissioner who said the community corrections and work release center should be on the county’s “top burner.”

The report predicts savings of $1 million to $2 million by building both a jail and community corrections-work release center at the same time.

It also says, “The new jail could be designed to facilitate operation of work release until separate facility is built. … The sheriff has indicated willingness to operate work release in a well-designed new jail. This will not cause crowding in the new jail, because the capacity should not be used for 15 or more years.”

Miller’s study showed that 59 percent of the jail’s inmates are released within three days.

“This underscores the need for sufficient short-term holding space in a new jail. In many jails, inmates are not processed into the general inmate population until they have been confined for three days,” Miller wrote. “Short-term holding is grossly deficient to hold and separate inmates until they must be moved to the long-term population.”

In contrast, occupancy of the jail’s beds is dominated by men who stay for five months to a year.

The report recommends that the new jail should be built with 55,441 square feet of enclosed space. It recommends building a jail and community corrections-work release facilities on the same site.

With a cap on the current jail’s population, DeKalb County is paying to board some of its inmates in neighboring counties. Miller predicts that if a new jail is not built for five years, the expense of housing prisoners elsewhere will reach nearly $3 million — money that could have been spent on a jail.

In other arguments supporting a new jail, Miller writes that the current jail exposes the county to liability claims and poses security and safety risks to the staff, inmates and public.

When county commissioners reviewed eight possible sites for a new jail Monday, three stood out having the fewest drawbacks. They are west of Auburn on S.R. 8 near C.R. 19; south of Auburn near the National Military History Center; and west of Waterloo, near the intersection of U.S. 6 and Interstate 69.

Commissioners emphasized Monday that they are not ready to decide on a jail site.

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