Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: County officials have tough jail decisions ahead

May 18—Madison County officials will be tasked with making a tough decision as progress moves forward on the construction of a new jail.

As currently proposed, the new jail will have bed space for 525 inmates with 144 people to be housed in a dormitory setting.

The plan doesn't include the building of a second pod for cells and is intended for future expansion.

Recently, Madison County Sheriff John Beeman did a study of the inmates housed in the current jail and determined that when the new facility is completed, it will be at capacity.

Beeman said only 25 of the current inmates could be housed in the dormitory setting; that doesn't include a dormitory for the 17 inmates that work in the jail.

He said a second pod could add up to 104 additional cells.

The current estimated cost of building the new jail is $103 million, which would be financed through a 20-year bond.

The estimated cost of completing a second pod is $8 million.

Expected to be included when bids are accepted this year is an alternative to complete the second pod during construction.

If the decision is made to delay the completion of the second pod for cells, the cost could increase over the next decade.

The decision facing the Madison County Board of Commissioners and the Madison County Council is whether the county should spend the money now to completely build out the jail, or wait to determine if there is a need for a second pod in the future.

Pay now? Or pay later?

Since the jail project was proposed, the Sheriff's Department has advocated for the complete build-out of the pods and eliminating much of the dormitory space.

As noted by officials with the sheriff's department, if there is an incident in a dormitory, officers won't enter until there is adequate manpower to quell a disturbance. In fact, there is the possibility that correctional officers could be held hostage by the inmates.

Should there be a disturbance in a cell block, inmates can be ordered to return to their individual cells and locked down so officers can enter to handle any incident.

Madison County currently has dormitory housing for up to 130 inmates at the community corrections complex.

The original cost of the jail was estimated at $110 million, but through some changes in financing the cost has been reduced to $103 million.

Once the bids are received, county officials should seriously consider completing both pods to prevent additional costs in the future.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at or 765-640-4863.