A new jail at what cost?

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007
— Sheriff Bob Spoden knows what he’d like an expanded and remodeled jail to look like, but he said he doesn’t know what it would cost.

Spoden on Tuesday presented the latest version of the Rock County Jail design plans to members of the Rock County finance and public safety committees.

Spoden said several times he could not offer a cost estimate, but told committee members the proposal makes better use of existing facilities than the $56 million plan that the county scrapped in June 2006.

Cost estimates are based on square footage, and designers still have questions about the plan, such as whether they can use the existing Pinehurst Building, Spoden said.

“Our goal is to reuse as much of the existing building as available,” Spoden said. “To guess at a cost at this point wouldn’t be prudent. It could go up or down.”

Aside from increasing the number of inmate beds, Spoden said the project would provide for efficient staffing and space for alternative programs and future expansion.

This is the second schematic plan in two years for the crowded jail. The county has spent $1.7 million on studies since expansion talks began in 1998. No ground has been broken.

Designer Potter Lawson started the last design in 2005 and got as far as a detailed plan with a price tag. But the county board stopped the process in June 2006 in an effort to cut costs.

The county hired consultant Roger Lichtman come up with design alternatives. Here are the highlights of the new plan designed by both firms:

-- The plan proposes 918 jail beds—nearly double the current 477. The number of inmates has exceeded 477 for the last several years.

The 918 would include 576 general population beds, 198 special population beds and 144 beds in the Huber dorm.

-- Spoden hopes to keep the Pinehurst Building at the southwest corner of the existing facility to use for classrooms and as staff space for alternative jail programs. Whether to keep the Pinehurst Building depends on how cost-effective it would be to renovate it.

-- Three units housing 64 inmates would be built east of the existing jail and south of the Juvenile Detention Center.

-- The units would be decentralized. Inmates would eat and socialize in their group of 64.

Each 64-bed unit would contain eight sets of eight-person cells stacked in two stories—four cells on each level. Each cell would have shower and toilet facilities for eight.

From the cells, all 64 inmates could access a common area to eat, watch TV or exercise outside. Cells could be locked down for punishment or emergencies.

-- The jail will work on the concept of direct supervision, meaning jailers would work among the inmates, not on the other side of locked doors and bullet-resistant glass.

“We integrate the individual into the general population to treat them as a whole individual,” Spoden said.

-- The building would rely on video visitation.

-- A centralized staff services room would hold locker rooms, exercise facilities and a briefing room that could double for staff meetings or community programs.

-- The walls of the existing jail cells will be knocked down to improve space and lighting.

Among the questions fielded by Spoden and designer Roger Lichtman were:

Q: How did you come to the 918-bed total?

A: Two reasons. It fits with future jail population estimates. And it allows for two-phase construction. When the new three-unit expansion is done, the jail population can be housed there while workers improve the old cells.

Q: Will this jail have an impact on the county budget or our taxes?

A: It’s too early to tell.

Q: When will you have more details?

A: Early 2008.


The Rock County Jail is rated for 477 inmates, but Tuesday:

-- It was housing 484.

-- 56 more were in the home diversion program.

-- 25 were in jails outside Rock County.

-- 35 more were in Community Recap.

So far in 2007, the adult daily population has averaged 583. That includes those in the jail, in alternative programs and in other jails.

Last updated: 9:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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