Johnson County Jail’s multi-million expansion is nearing completion, with only one project on hold before major work is officially complete.
The $23.1 million project to add 264 additional beds, a new intake area, an expanded medical center and more to the Johnson County Justice Center was first announced in 2019 and is designed to address the frequent overcrowding issues the prison has experienced over the years. The facility was first built in 1977.
As the county’s population grew, so did crime. The county had to renovate and restructure parts of the jail in response to a 1997 federal lawsuit. After the lawsuit, the jail was renovated and a new wing was added, which increased the jail’s capacity to 299 to 104 in 2002. But the population still increased.
More beds were added in 2012 after an Indiana Department of Corrections inspector found room for 23 more beds at the request of Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess, who was then commandant of the jail. then Sheriff Doug Cox. Still, the 322-bed facility was often crowded with up to 459 people incarcerated. In 2018, the state forced the county to take action, which led to the latest expansion, officials say.
With the latest expansion, the prison’s capacity was increased to 586 beds. The new wing built as part of the expansion features a new command center that overlooks the new cellblocks and inmate recreation area, as well as a new break room for prison officers. Padded cells, more offices and classrooms for classes and support groups were also added.
Several renovation projects have also been completed in the old wing, including additional access bays for arresting officers, more office space for MPs to complete their reports, a streamlined reception area, an expanded medical center, a larger commissioner, and multiple virtual courtrooms.
The project is paid for with a local income tax, or LIT, which came into effect in October 2019. The 20-year tax increased local income tax from 1.2% to 1.2% and has an impact on all workers who live in Johnson County, regardless of status. in which department they work.
Earlier this month, the construction company behind the expansion, Garmong Construction Services, appeared before the Johnson County Board of Commissioners to announce the end of the project. Tony Anderson, a Garmong representative, told commissioners on April 11 that despite the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdown in early 2020, workers were still able to complete the project four months ahead of schedule and under budget. , did he declare.
A contingency fund of $536,000 is returned to the county. The funds were set aside for unforeseen expenses and cost overruns, officials said.
County Commissioner Kevin Walls, who has been involved with the project throughout its execution, expressed his gratitude for the project’s completion at the April 11 meeting.
“You brought it (to completion) on budget, ahead of time. You can’t ask for anything more than that,” Walls said. “Thank you for what you did on this. project.”
Burgess is happy to see the expansion completed. It’s a good thing for taxpayers that the project went under budget, he said.
Whenever there is an expansion of the prison, a lot of things have to happen, such as moving inmates, which takes time. Prison staff tried to be ahead of the game when it came to trying to help Garmong complete the project, Burgess said.
“We had the right people in place to answer any questions these people had,” Burgess said.
With the expansion now nearing completion, the focus has shifted to smaller renovation projects that can use LIT prison funds.
Currently, construction crews are working on a variety of projects, including closing an exterior staircase. The staircase is frequently used by employees to enter a certain part of the prison, and because it is exposed to the elements, there are times when the stairs would be icy – a safety hazard, Burgess said.
“We need to cover these steps to clear any ice or anything that might build up,” Burgess said.
The staircase enclosure isn’t the only project underway. With the money left over from the expansion, Burgess tries to make necessary repairs to the aging parts of the prison building. Parts of the prison were built as early as the 1970s, so there are several items that need to be replaced, such as piping and electrical work, he said.
“Just like we have to renovate our homes, I have to renovate…and get things done, so hopefully when I’m done as sheriff, the next sheriff doesn’t have to spend so much time making these repairs. “, Burgess mentioned.
This work is ongoing right now. Contractors are working on some sinks and showers at the facility and replacing old electric lighting with LEDs, which will save money in the future, he said.
Burgess also keeps an eye on the future needs of the sheriff’s office down the road. One of those needs includes a possible expansion of the agency’s training center, which he asked commissioners and the county’s construction manager to review.
Since Burgess first took office as sheriff in 2019, he has looked at the number of hours of training his staff have undergone and compared to when he first took office, the number of hours has nearly doubled. He wants the sheriff’s office to eventually have all the training done in-house, with a few exceptions, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with its partners, has launched another Crisis Response Team class, where officers across the county learn how they can help people with mental health and/or addictions access to the treatment they need in a crisis, rather than placing them in the criminal justice system. Another class was needed so more officers from across the county could attend, Burgess said.
Burgess wants training courses like this to continue, while having state-of-the-art facilities, he said.
“I want the best of the best for officers so they can get training,” Burgess said. “Training has been a big issue over the past couple of years, and it’s really come under scrutiny from a lot of legislators. We want to do what is expected of us. »