CLINTON — Over a decade after the need for a new jail was identified, a grand opening was held Thursday for the new Clinton County Law Center.

The Clinton County Law Center’s grand opening comes three years after passage of a $22 million bond referendum in May 2016. The process started in 2008, when the National Institute of Corrections, while conducting a site visit to perform a jail needs and justice system assessment, found the facility needed to be replaced.

 “Our goal was to determine how many new, additional beds would we need when we put on an addition to our old facility,” Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln said. “However, the National Institute of Corrections deemed our jail was antiquated, obsolete and inadequate. We were advised to immediately plan for its replacement.”

Shortly after receiving this input, the county formed the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission in April 2009. The CCJCC identified the four biggest areas of concern they wanted addressed: mental health and substance abuse, alternative sanctions, court issues and jail facilities. A jail needs assessment was completed and it was determined the county needed a 96-bed facility. The new facility can hold 115 inmates, Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Steve Diesch confirmed Thursday.

Lincoln said the new, almost 66,000-square-foot facility houses the jail, Clinton County Communications, the 911 call center, the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency, Sheriff’s administrative offices and a large conference room, which also serves as the emergency operations center.

Lincoln said that Thursday marked the start of a paradigm shift in the county’s operating philosophy at the jail.

 “We currently have mental health professionals staffed in our facility,” Lincoln said. “Their goal is to identify those inmates whose root cause of them being involved in the criminal justice system may be due to an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. Programming space has been incorporated into our new facility so we can host classes here. The goal is to provide a positive impact in the lives of people who are in our jail.

 “We have already been in discussions with Eastern Iowa Community College about providing classes for high school equivalency courses. Iowa Workforce Development is offering to assist inmates with training to prepare them to find employment upon their release from jail.”

Lincoln added that Alcoholics Anonymous will have classrooms to meet with inmates looking for help. Religious organizations will be able to have a worship service or provide assistance to inmates in a more appropriate setting. Lincoln said that in the future they hope to present a wider selection of classes, such as cognitive restructuring and habilitation training.

 “We are working to make better use of taxpayer dollars with the goal of providing better outcomes for our jail inmates,” Lincoln said.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday is set to hold a public hearing for a proposed budget amendment related to the Law Center project. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker in August said the proposed budget amendment of $800,000 is to finish the jail project.

He said in August the county was around $255,000 short in capital funds to complete the project. About $100,000 will be used to finish landscaping, which was not part of the bond for the new Law Center.

Van Lancker said in August that the county always intended to take care of the landscaping. The county will use some of the $800,000 for the demolition of two houses and a gas station across the street from the courthouse. Some funds may be used when the county does underground work for the parking lot. Van Lancker added the proposed $800,000 was a conservative number. The public hearing will begin at 9:45 a.m. 

John Rohlf is a staff writer for the Clinton Herald.