History Record View

Title: Warren's century-old jailhouse falls below state standards
File Attachment:
Attachment Type: image

Warren County jail has fallen behind the times.

The nearly century-old jail on State Route 28 in Williamsport is inadequate by state-developed jail standards. That is what the Warren County Commissioners learned after reviewing a report at Monday's meeting.

Though no action was taken by the three-member board, it was their consensus to review the study and decide whether to rebuild or renovate in order to comply with the standards approved in August 1981.

The study, prepared by Polson Architects, Urbana, Ill., was commissioned by the county commissioners at a cost of $1,000 after the state standards were approved late this summer.

These standards, which are the first of its type developed for use in the state, establish conditions of minimum operational and physical conditions. They were developed by the state in response to national concerns that older jails may no longer be adequate.

Prior to their approval, inspections, like the biannual ones conducted in Warren County, were based on standards generally in line with those used on a national basis.

The study by the Polson firm shows the Warren County jail does not fully comply with the standards.

These deficiencies, according to architect Steve Polson, are similar to those in jails of other counties.

"This type of situation is being experienced everywhere," Polson said. "Most counties, as far as I know, are in the position where plans have to be made."

More minor problems, or those taking the least amount of money and effort to remedy, include a better system for providing fresh air and a more energy efficient heating system for making temperatures uniform throughout the building.

One of the more major problems is the need for a more secure prisoner processing area with space for temporary holding and examinations, shower facilities and emergency exit.

The county jail, constructed in the late 1800s, currently has space for processing in the basement of the residence portion of the building. According to the report, this may be a serious problem because prisoners must travel a stairway, leading from the jail cells, during processing.

The ultimate decision of the commission, according to the report, is whether to renovate the existing structure or build a new one. Estimated costs vary with major renovations running from $400,000 to $700,000 and construction of a new building running from $600,000 to $900,000.

Polson said the core issue in determining a solution is inmate capacity.

Currently, the jail has room for 16 and averages a daily prisoner population of four. Projections by the Polson firm show that county population will increase only slightly during the next 20 years. To satisfy law enforcement needs, the study cites a capacity of eight to 10.

This capacity was made on the assumption that the facilities will be developed adequately throughout, Polson said.

Though Polson recommended no specific solution, he said, "The report was made with the point-of-view that any solution pursued would be in the taxpayer's best interests."

He said it may be lasting to renovate the current building, which houses both the sheriff's home and jail, or they could go ahead and build.

"A new site could be better developed to serve the county efficiently," he commented. "But it would probably not have such a convenient proximity to the courthouse as does the current structure."

If the building was renovated, it could mean moving the sheriff's residence to a location separate from the jail. According to Indiana case law, counties are obligated to provide quarters or allowances for quarters.

To fund either renovations or building, Attorney John Rader, of the McCabe, McCabe, and Rader law firm in Williamsport, said the county could have a bond issue or begin a cumulative fund.

The commissioners said little following the presentation. Commissioner Enoch Gooden commented, "I expected this kind of report."

After a review and decison by the commissioners, Polson said they must determine a list of needs and an approximate budget. From these would evolve the basic architectural services to include design drawings. Actual construction documents are made from the drawings.

The commissioners did not say if they plan to stay with the Polson firm, though they did compliment the report and said they will be in touch with the firm.

[Picture Caption] The two-story Warren County jail has fallen behind the times in comparison to state-developed standards approved in August. The nearly century-old building was constructed to include the sheriff's residence. Prisoners are held in an adjacent 1,070-square-foot section.

Date: 12/9/1981
Origin: Attica Ledger-Tribune
Author: Chris Moenich, Staff Writer
Record ID: 00002612
Type: Periodical
Source Archive: Warren County Historical Society
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Court House
Entered By: Leslie J. Rice

Information in this record is provided for personal research purposes only and may not be reproduced for publication. If you have questions about copyright issues contact the archive source listed above.