ANDERSON — Madison County hopes to start construction on a new jail by next summer.

The Madison County Jail Committee recently got a glimpse of the preliminary design for the new facility at an estimated cost of $87 million.

Tom Ecker, county administrator, said officials have been working on a preliminary floor plan for the past five weeks. All county agencies, including the Sheriff’s Department, courts, IT and maintenance staff had input.

“We’re concentrating on mental health issues and have visited Hamilton County and attended a state conference,” he said. “Indiana will be issuing guidelines in the next few years.”

Ecker said the plan is to complete the design and advertise for bids in the spring with construction, expected to take up to 36 months, to start in the summer of 2023.

The county has not finalized the site for the new jail, expected to be located on a minimum of 20 acres in the city of Anderson.

Ecker said the county is hoping to obtain enough property to build other facilities, which could include a morgue.

Sanjay Patel with RQAW said the preliminary design is for a two-pod plan to house inmates, with a central control point that can oversee all the individual cell blocks.

As proposed, one pod would house 237 inmates and a second would house 139, with space allocated for future expansion of up to an additional 98 beds.

Patel said there are rooms for the medical staff, classrooms and isolation rooms.

He said the design will simplify the task of classifying inmates and that sight and sound isolation will allow for the movement of prisoners when necessary.

“The goal is to meet current needs and allow the option to expand in the future as needed,” Patel said.

Eric Weflen with RQAW said the preliminary design has the Sheriff’s Department administration offices and public access on one end of the building and a separate area for the release of prisoners.

“Fifty years ago, jails were designed to warehouse people,” he said. “There has now been a shift to rehabilitation of inmates.

“There will be dedicated mental health and medical areas in the facility,” Weflen added. “The plans have not been finalized.”

Outgoing Sheriff Scott Mellinger said county officials have toured seven jails that have been built in recent years, including four in counties adjacent to Madison County.

Mellinger said he was excited about the cells being constructed of steel to minimize damage by inmates.

“The number of cells is adequate for a while,” he said of the plan for 406 beds. “The current jail was built for short-term stays. Now we’re housing low-level felonies, trials have been delayed and inmates are sentenced to the jail. That all impacts the life of the building.”
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