IOWA CITY, Iowa — A project at the Johnson County Jail in Iowa City to begin this spring will force the sheriff’s office to transfer a majority of its inmates out of the county for several months.
The Johnson County Jail project includes improvements to the jail’s control center, such as upgraded cameras and computers, and repairs to several cellblock doors. Work on the $880,000 project is scheduled to begin on April 27 and be completed on July 20.
Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek told The Gazette that 70 to 90 percent of the county’s inmates would be transferred to the Muscatine County Jail in Muscatine during the project. The current Johnson County Jail has a capacity of only 92 inmates and, since 2011, has kept its overflow inmates at the Muscatine County Jail for about $45 a day.
While the Muscatine County facility is closer than the Linn County Jail, Plkrabek told The Gazette that Muscatine County provides a better rate for inmates. Plus, the facility’s 255-bed count allows Johnson County to hold all of its inmates in one place. The Muscatine County facility has 26 two-man cells, 67 single cells, a special housing unit, two small women’s housing units and 16 cells designated for disciplinary segregation. Muscatine County has often held disruptive inmates for other counties that haven’t had the capacity to do so, reported Muscatine Journal.
During construction, the Johnson County Jail will still have the capacity to process and hold some inmates in the remodeled holding cells on the lower level and the booking room on the main floor. No inmates will be taken to the Muscatine County facility until bond has been placed on them at their initial appearance, which typically occurs within 24 hours of arrest.
Although the inmates will be housed elsewhere, the Johnson County Jail staff will continue to work full time in different ways. Some will be stationed in the main floor booking area, while others will be in a room answering phones. Some jail deputies will also be situated outside the cellblocks since the cameras normally providing views of the inmates will be shut down during the project. Other staff members will be in charge of transporting inmates to and from Muscatine County for court appearances.
Pulkrabek told The Gazette that the project would help the jail with much-needed repairs; however, it still doesn’t address issues that led county officials to campaign for a bond referendum last year to fund a justice center.