By Roxanne Squires
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – The Hamilton County Jail expansion broke ground recently in response to the overcrowding of the facility.
The 25-year-old Hamilton County Jail currently maintains the capacity of 300 inmates, yet well exceeds that amount with its current 400 inmates occupying the facility.
The $13.5 million project will nearly double the number of beds the jail has currently – accumulating 256 more beds. The expansion will also include adding an indoor recreation center, a classroom and a medical supply area.
However, some city officials, including the county sheriff, were hoping for a bigger expansion, according to Fox59. Under that plan, there was a possibility the county would have to impose a tax increase. In lieu of this, the city council voted to originally build 120 new beds, with the option to add more in time.
The first phase will add the initial 120 beds. Phase II, which costs slightly under $4 million, will bring an additional 136 beds. Hamilton County commissioners are currently waiting on additional funds to begin Phase II. The beds will be held in 11 cell pods with 84 prefabricated steel cells for two and four people.
Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen referred to legislation passed in January 2016, House Bill 1006, having an effect on the jail’s population, causing the need for an expansion. The legislation requires Level 6 felons to serve their terms in county jails rather than state correctional facilities.
Sheriff Bowen also claims that the overcrowding is a result of a rise in substance abuse, creating an up-tick in theft and burglaries for addicts to support their habit, as reported by theindychannel.com.
Former Hamilton County Jail inmate, Bradley Noel, told indychannel that he does not believe expanding the jail will bring a solution to the problem, arguing that drug addicts need access to treatment, not incarceration.
This is not the only renovation currently underway for Hamilton County. A $25 million dollar expansion to the county government center also aims to create more room for judicial services.
Construction for both projects is scheduled for completion next year.