LEBANON, Ind. — The last time Boone County built a new jail, it was 1992 and there were about 35,000 residents who lived there.
In 30 years, the county’s population has doubled. However, the size of its jail has not, even though more people mean more crime and the pressure on the criminal justice system to keep the community safe.
Boone County leaders broke ground Monday afternoon on a $60 million expansion of the current jail and justice center.
“What we’re building is really gonna change the lives of a lot of people and I’m really excited about that,” said Sheriff Mike Neilsen. “We’re really setting up Boone County for the future.”
The newly expanded justice center will include 102 additional jail beds plus 100 Community Correction beds for offenders on work release or those transitioning out of incarceration.
”We’re gonna have a huge Community Correction facility here that’s gonna be a residential community corrections facility,” said Neilsen, “and that’s the exciting piece because once we do the programming in here, there will be continuity of care once they leave. We’ll put them into a step-down unit. We’ll teach them trades. We’ll teach them life skills and then we’ll move them over to community corrections residential facility.”
The expansion will also provide more office space for other county criminal justice agencies.
“We will be building a coroner’s office and a morgue where we can treat those who have lost their lives with the utmost respect and dignity while providing a space of the highest level of investigative work,” said County Commissioner Jeff Wolfe. ”As we designed this project, studies showed that this building could even be larger than what it is, but we feel like with the treatment facility that we’re gonna build that we’re going to be able to keep our population lower because of that, lower our recidivism rate.”
Sheriff Neilsen said he sees that challenge every day in the current jail which is often above 80% capacity.
”If you’re looking at 70% of the people that have mental health and addiction issues inside our facility, we’ve gotta do a better job,” he said.
The expansion will be financed by a 0.2% income tax increase that would cost a wage earner who is paid $70,000 a year an extra $72 annually.
The facility should be open in 2024.