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Jail assessment, mental health services topics of discussion at Law Enforcement
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DARLINGTON – Design architects from Madison, Potter Lawson, completed the jail assessment for the Lafayette County jail and gave the county three options.

Sheriff Reg Gill explained those three options at the Law Enforcement Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

The first option is to add a second floor to the existing structure. The building was built back in the 1980s with the intention of taking on a second floor. It most likely could still take on a second floor but it would need to be a different structure. Gill explained that instead of a block wall like the jail is currently, it would have to be a steel frame wall so it would be lighter.

The second floor would be added on all the way over to the existing elevator to be used to go up and down to the courthouse. At this point, Gill said they weren’t able to give him an estimate on how many beds this option would give them.

The problem they run into with modifying the existing building is they will automatically loose beds because the current facility is not up to code. The jail currently has 25 beds and would most likely loose five beds. The Department of Corrections requires each single cell to be 5 feet 6 inches wide and 7 feet 6 inches long and each double occupancy cell would need to be at least 70 square feet. They do not current meet those standards. Gill said that the cells they have that are double bunk would need to go back to single.

The main draw back to this option is all of the inmates would have to be housed at another facility while they renovated. The county would have to pay for those inmates to be housed in other places, along with any transportation costs from that jail facility to court and back again.

The preliminary budget for that option would be $8.4 million.

The second option would be to build a two-story structure in the existing parking lot, attach it to the current building and once that would be completed, they would be able to move the inmates into the new building and renovate the current building. Again they were not able to give the exact number of beds but Gill anticipates the bed count being reduced. The preliminary budget for that option would be $9.9 million.

The third option would be to build a new 50-bed jail on a new site. The main draw back would be it would no longer be attached to the courthouse. That option’s preliminary budget is $16.9 million.

Gerald Heimann asked what the monthly cost would be if inmates would need to be housed at a different facility. Emergency Manager Theresa Burgess commented that it cost $42,000 a month for 28 inmates. That did not include the cost of transporting those inmates to and from court.

Gill was even unsure if they would be able to use their holding cell if they chose the second option. If someone would be detained in Lafayette County, they might have to take him or her directly to a different facility.

Heimann asked how much more staff would the second option take.

“I don’t think there is anyway we can do anything, as far as increasing, without adding some staff. I really don’t know what the magic number would be,” Gill answered. “Regardless if it’s two stories here or two stories there, the [National Institute for Corrections] stated you have to have two people on each floor. But I don’t know what the number is going to be.”

Steve Spensley stated that the county could go as far as purchasing the homes across the street and build a new facility there and place all the parking underground.

“It could take a million dollars to buy those houses but a million dollars would be nothing if you are going to spend $16 million,” Spensley proposed.

Potter Lawson is waiting for the options to be finalized and then will present them at a special county board meeting where they will be discussing the assessments of the jail, manor and hospital.

Mental Health Services

When inmates say they need mental health services, they are then taken out of the jail and transported up to the Human Services at the County K building. A law enforcement member would then have to sit outside the door and wait for the session to be completed before taking the inmate back to jail.

Sheriff Gill has had much discussion on this topic and even the jail inspector did not like the idea of the inmates being out of the jail for that because it could create issues of safety and other issues.

Gill has spoken with Human Services Director Shane Schuhmacher about them coming down to the jail and doing the counseling. Schuhmacher stated that the state did not allow for them to do that. Recently that has changed where the state has created a memorandum of understanding allowing those treatments to occur.

Gill again spoke with Human Services but has not had a definite answer.

“I don’t believe they want to do it, plain and simple,” Gill said.

Gill requested an estimate from Advanced Correction Healthcare Inc., the same company that is being used by Iowa, Grant and Green counties for their mental health. The contract would be for a total of six hours a month (three hours every other week) for a total of $11,209.11. They would come to the jail and provide screenings, assessments, evaluations, treatment planning, referrals and crisis intervention services.

Heimann asked if six hours would be enough. Spensley felt that there might be times when it would not.

One of the problems they are running into is they believe inmates want to go up to Human Services to be able to get out of the jail.

“One person even put it literally, ‘its time for the field trip’,” Gill commented. “We cannot deny them services. If they say they need mental health services we are compelled to provide them. But by doing it inside the jail, it might be less likely for people requesting it because now they wouldn’t be getting out.”

Gill stated that the jail administrator and the jail nurse both believe this is the way to go.

“Personally I don’t like the idea of spending $11,000 and someone coming in every other week for three hours when we have people who can do this job but I’m just not having a lot of luck getting this done,” Gill added.

The money has been included in the 2020 budget because if the department is unable to work something out with Human Services, they still need to provide the services to the inmates.

The committee preferred to table the motion and have more discussions with Human Resources, Finance and Human Services.