MUNCIE — Delaware County officials took another step toward a new jail on Tuesday, approving a preliminary plan to spend up to $50 million on a 500-bed jail.
The plan, which Commissioner James King said could lead to spending $50,000 per inmate bed, would be a bargain compared to earlier cost estimates of $100,000 per bed.
At any rate, the project would be one of the biggest taken on by the county since the Delaware County Justice Center opened in 1992. In 1994, the cost of the Justice Center was estimated at $63 million in bonds — some of them later refinanced — and millions more for attorney and architecture fees and other costs, including housing inmates outside the county.
The jail section of the Justice Center opened in 1992 with 120 beds, a limit later increased to about 220. Sheriff Ray Dudley has noted that up to 300 inmates are routinely housed in the jail, with dozens more in alternative programs.
A state jail inspector last fall told Delaware County officials that the local jail was headed for a "critical" incident.