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home : news : news Sunday, May 1, 2016

5/8/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Construction plans for a new Clinton County jail picking up speed

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

Clinton County officials are moving into the next phase of work to plan for construction of a new jail that could be completed and ready for occupancy within four years.

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors was updated on the jail planning process Monday, May 6, in a discussion with sheriff Rick Lincoln and Brian McKenrick of the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission (CCJCC).

The CCJCC was created in 2009 as an offshoot of the county's jail task force to deal with jail overcrowding problems and work on other issues related to the criminal justice system in Clinton County.

At the May 6 meeting, McKenrick and Lincoln discussed a request for proposals (RFP) for a jail needs assessment approved by the CCJCC April 26.

The commission will be selecting a firm to conduct the needs assessment and provide consulting services in relation to planning for a new jail.

RFPs for the contract are due May 31, after which the commission will interview "short-listed" firms and make a recommendation to the board of supervisors to award a contract.

A timeline prepared by the CCJCC calls for interviews to be held July 17, with a firm selection by July 25 in order to negotiate and award a contract by Aug. 5.

The RFP has four main parts, McKenrick said - a jail needs assessment, pre-architectural planning, a space needs assessment for the communications department and identifying efficiencies with a joint facility with the Clinton Police Department.

The jail needs assessment will look at current and projected caseloads to determine the number and type of beds that will be needed to accommodate the jail population.

"That's taking our data and using it to project what our average needs will be in 15-20 years . . . Who do we have in our jail and how to they need to be considered in our jail structure?" McKenrick said.

The assessment will include an analysis of what kind of bed space the county will need based on the number of misdemeanor versus felony charges, he noted.

Supervisor Jill Davisson asked about the possibilities for housing of juvenile inmates, who by law must have sight and sound separation from adult prisoners.

Lincoln said the county currently transfers juveniles to be held in the Cedar County jail because they tend to be "high-maintenance" inmates that require lots of direct contact with staff.

Lincoln said the jail had some bad experiences in the past, including a suicide attempt by a juvenile inmate.

"(Jail administrator) Craig Eberhart said the risk is too great at our facility," Lincoln said.

However, if a new jail used a pod-style layout that allowed for 24/7 monitoring of inmates and was free of bars to prevent hanging attempts, the county could consider housing juveniles locally.

"We've done a really good job reducing our expense on housing inmates out of county, just not with the juveniles," McKenrick said.

The pre-architectural planning portion of the RFP will look at various functional scenarios to help determine needs, McKenrick stated.

It will examine jail processes, such as book-in procedures or requests for medical attention, to identify what facilities are needed to respond to the scenarios and where rooms should be located in relation to one another.

The third portion of the RFP is a space needs assessment for the communications department, currently housed at the law center.

Communications director Eric Dau said the assessment was combined with the jail needs study to create economies of scale by potentially hiring one firm to complete both studies with a single consultant visit.

The county previously issued a separate RFP for the space needs assessment for communications.

"Our bids came in higher than expected, and with the timeline on the jail moving up, it makes sense to have the same methodology on both studies," Dau said.

Davisson asked if it's safe to keep the communications center in the same facility as the jail.

"In an ideal world is it good to have them together?" she asked.

Lincoln said the co-location works well. It makes it easier for communication staff to provide copies of warrants to arresting officers, and it was a communications operator who was first alerted when an inmate escaped from the jail last month.

A new jail facility could be designed to ensure a safe and secure separation of communications functions, Lincoln added.

Dau said state law requires the communications center be secure, and there will be multiple layers of security before someone could enter the area.

The fourth component of the jail needs assessment will look at potential efficiencies that could be created by sharing a building with the Clinton Police Department, which has complained for several years of lack of space and aging facilities.

"So we've been talking with city leaders and exploring the possibility of a joint facility," McKenrick said.

He said the RFP is asking for firms with experience in jail planning and also with experience in dealing with Iowa laws.

Supervisor Brian Schmidt asked if the assessment will identify locations to build a new jail.

McKenrick said site evaluation won't only come into play until the second phase of the planning process, but the assessment will identify criteria that could be used in the site selection process.

"So this will look at how big the facility needs to be and that will determine the location," supervisor John Staszewski stated.

The assessment will include projections about the future of the region, including possible impacts from growth at the Lincolnway Railport and expansion of existing businesses, such as Ashford University.

"All of these will play a big part in our jail population," McKenrick said.

The demographic of 18-35 year old males makes up the highest percentage of the jail population, so changes in that demographic will impact jail needs.

Lincoln said the county has five years of data it has collected on the jail that began following a 2008 assessment by the National Institute of Corrections.

"We will have a very data-rich environment for this planner coming in the door," Lincoln said.

Asked about the timeline for construction, McKenrick said it takes an average of 3.5-4 years from the time jail planning begins until occupancy.

He was asked about funding for future phases of the planning process.

The county has budgeted $15,000 for the jail needs assessment. McKenrick said the next cost will be for the pre-architectural and architectural design phase.

"So basically each step requires cash on hand," Davisson said.

Schmidt said the supervisors will need to pay attention to the timeline when they begin budgeting in the winter for the following fiscal year.

Davisson asked about the timeline for completing the needs assessment. McKenrick said the RFP will request a timeline for completion but he doesn't expect it will take more than a few months.

"It'd be good to have that by year end for budgeting," Staszewski commented.

Davisson said it's important to start public discussion of the jail planning process because the county will have to bond for funding to build the jail.

Auditor Eric Van Lancker said public tours already have started at the jail, and Lincoln said there were several TV news stories last week.

"One thing we've talked about is putting together a two-minute walk-through video of our jail," to use in presentations and make available on the Internet, McKenrick added.

Lincoln said there also has been discussion of a "jail open house," when inmates would be housed out of county for a day to allow people to tour the jail and see with their own eyes the problems with the 44-year-old building.

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