Juvenile detention center to close; Use of building to help ease jail overcrowding



The Jackson County Commissioners voted 3-0 on Tuesday night to close the nearly 20-year-old juvenile detention center at the end of March.

The closure has been discussed several times in the past as one solution to ease overcrowding at the jail by providing bed space for as many as 56 adult inmates.

The jail has a capacity of 172, but 256 inmates were housed there Wednesday. The average daily inmate count at the jail was 239 in 2017.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

After an inspection in June 2017, a state inspector recommended the county convert the 28-bed juvenile detention center into housing for adult inmates, who can be double-bunked.

That inspector, Kenneth Whipker, said the county had 180 days to meet housing and bed needs. That inspection found a lack of fixed beds for every inmate as required, leading to some sleeping on the floor or on portable cots.

It also found the number of inmates exceeded the 1 to 12 ratio for toilets and showers and that square footage requirements were not being met because of overcrowding. Each inmate must have 35 square feet in his or her cell, and there must by 50 square feet per inmate in a dorm area.

Whipker, a former Bartholomew County sheriff, suggested commissioners convert the juvenile detention center, which opened in the summer of 2000, to housing for adult female inmates.

Commissioner Drew Markel said during Tuesday’s meeting at the courthouse annex in Brownstown that he had been looking at the issue of overcrowding for some time and felt it was in the best interest of the taxpayers to close the center and use it for adult inmates instead of adding a pod to the jail or building a new jail.

Markel is a member of a committee that formed to find solutions to overcrowding. The other committee members are Sheriff Michael Carothers, county councilmen Brian Thompson and Dave Hall, Seymour City Councilman David Earley and Jackson Circuit Court Judge Richard W. Poynter.

Thompson said the committee was looking for the most efficient use for the detention center.

Markel’s motion to close the center to juveniles from other counties March 1 and then close it to Jackson County juveniles March 31 was seconded by Commissioner Bob Gillaspy. Commissioners President Matt Reedy also voted yes.

Steve Redicker, director of the center, said the decision to close the center was not a surprise, but he was disappointed he did not learn it was even on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

He said the center’s population had been down in recent months but was headed back up.

“We are at 18 today,” he said.

According to the center’s annual report, there were an average of 4.8 juveniles from Jackson County housed at the center each day in 2017. With the addition of out-of-county juveniles, the average was 13 juveniles per day at the center.

Redicker said his main concern was the 14 employees at the center and asked commissioners if he could help them work to find jobs within the county for those people.

Carothers said during the jail inspection a year earlier, he was told he needed seven more jailers.

He also said by converting the juvenile detention center to beds for adult inmates, he also would need eight additional staffers to monitor inmates and complete other tasks.

“There is a good chance we can absorb everybody,” he said.

Each additional jailer would cost the county about $50,000 annually, or $750,000, if Carothers was allowed to hire the 15 he said he needs.

The county charges other counties $120 a day to house their juveniles here.

If Jackson County had to pay the same rate a day to house juveniles elsewhere, it would have cost $211,000 this past year.

Thompson estimated it would cost $160 a day to house a Jackson County juvenile elsewhere, a number that includes transportation costs. He also estimated it would cost the county about $200,000 to send juveniles to other detention centers and another $50,000 to upgrade the center for adult inmates.

The county took in $330,800 by housing juveniles from other counties at the center in 2017. The juvenile detention center’s adopted budget was $869,578.

Overall, Thompson said there was likely going to be about $250,000 to $300,000 left from the juvenile detention center’s budget to pay for jailers to staff the additional space for adult inmates.

“I would be happy with seven,” Thompson said.

Carothers said the move is still just a bandage on the overcrowding issue, and an expansion will be needed in the future as the number of inmates continues to rise at the jail.

That expansion might then lead to a move to reopen the center, he said.

Carothers said he has never been opposed to the idea behind the juvenile detention center if it could help change just one kid’s life.

The conversion of the center into housing for adult inmates, however, could possibly help the county avoid a costly lawsuit, he said. There has still not been one involving overcrowding in his seven-plus years as sheriff, Carothers said.

Commissioners opted to allow Carothers to decide what inmates should be housed in the juvenile detention center after the conversion.

The center has three separate pods, and Thompson said one of those pods will be utilized for a re-entry and recovery program operated by Centerstone, a nonprofit mental health and substance abuse agency. Centerstone operates similar programs at jails in Bartholomew, Monroe and Scott counties.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”By the numbers” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Year;Juvenile center budget;Income from other counties





Jackson County Jail average daily inmate count















No posts to display