With the Iowa Department of Corrections closing the Warren County Jail Friday, one of the primary institutions partnering to hold overflow inmates is right in Newton. The Jasper County Jail is awaiting additional inmates at its facility starting mid-week.
“The action being taken is the result of years of ongoing issues with the jail facility,” according to the DOC notice. “Occasionally there are such a number of violations that have persisted for such a period of time, that the department must exercise its duty to suspend the capability of a jail to house prisoners until corrective action can be taken.”
For Jasper County, the closure means an influx of additional inmates at the 84-bed facility.
“They will potentially be in Jasper County for three to four years,” Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said. “There hasn’t been any bond issue on any type of building in Warren County and once that is done it still takes anywhere from two to three years to get the job completed. Barring any changes, it is a potential we could be doing this for years.”
Jasper County has been holding inmates from Warren County since October 2016 and has seen monetary benefits in the form of an additional $12,000 in revenue per month. With the number of inmates increasing even more, Halferty said revenues could reach up to $19,000 per month.
“Our high end for revenue could be between $18,000 and $19,000 per month,” Halferty said. “Anywhere between $12,000 to $18,000 depending, but it is very fluid on the amount of inmates.”
Prior to the announcement of the closure, the Jasper County Jail was already looking to expand its facilities by finishing an additional pod currently used for storage. Planned as a “dorm style” pod, the area will hold an additional eight to 10 inmates when completed.
“We won’t have another layer of cells, we will just have a big open room with bunks and tables and then there will be a private area for toilets,” Halferty said.
Halferty said there will need to be some work done to the area including adding plumbing and privacy areas for restrooms. Bunks and tables from the previous jail that have been stored in the basement will be refinished and utilized in the new area.
“We would like to get this ready simply because the closure (at Warren County) was kind of unexpected, so because they are closing on Feb. 2, they are going to need more beds,” Halferty said. “In order to help accommodate them and also have beds for our own arrestees, we’re going to try to expedite the construction so we can get it finished in this year.”
With the additional beds, capacity will grow to 94 inmates. Staffing changes are not expected, Halferty said. He believes they can still adequately staff it and hold the same number of inmates. Currently, the jail is at about 50 percent occupancy but it has reached maximum capacity in the past.
“When we first opened, Scott County and Polk County both were overflowing and the sheriff’s office made close to $1 million revenue during four or five years because we were maxing out our beds holding for those facilities,” Halferty said. “At that time we weren’t holding as many of our own so we could fill more beds.”
On Jan. 3, the county board of supervisors said Halferty should proceed with contacting contractors to submit bids on the work. A timeline has not yet been set for the completion of the new pod.
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org